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Royal Army Medical Corps in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

Royal Army Medical Corps




25th May 1940 On the Move

27th May 1940 Under Attack

28th May 1940 Consolidation

29th May 1940 Orders to Withdraw

30th May 1940 Casualties

4th Jun 1940 With the Wounded

8th Jun 1940 On the Move

27th Jul 1940 On the Move

1st Aug 1940 Wounded Moved

14th Apr 1941 Football Match

20th Jul 1942 Change of Command

21st Jul 1942 On the Move

23rd Jul 1942 In Action

24th Jul 1942 Maintenance

25th Jul 1942 Intelligence

26th Jul 1942 Orders

27th Jul 1942 In Action

29th Jul 1942 Intelligence

3rd Aug 1942 On the Move

4th Aug 1942 Sniping

6th Aug 1942 Training

8th Aug 1942 Health

12th Aug 1942 Positions Improved

13th Aug 1942 Positions Improved

14th Aug 1942 Positions Improved

18th Aug 1942 Health

24th Aug 1942 Preparations


If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.



Those known to have served with

Royal Army Medical Corps

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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There are 17 pages in our library tagged Royal Army Medical Corps  These include information on officers service, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.

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Private Albert Howard 214 Field Ambulance, 'B' Company Royal Army Medical Corps.

Albert Howard was my uncle, who was born 5th October 1919 in Londons' East End, the son of a Port of London Authority policeman also named Albert. Shortly before the outbreak of WW2 he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps as 7348810 Pte. Howard, A.E. He joined 'B' Company of 214 Field Ambulance. By Christmas 1942 his unit was in North Africa, from where he sent my mother a Photostat greetings card, which I have inherited together with a number of Aerogram letters. In one dated June 1943, he writes of spending four days in a rest camp, where "... there is good swimming in the sea and a bus service to the town, where there are good service clubs and cinemas. You know that the King came out here recently, and we were inspected by him. I need not say what sort of preparations had to be made for the Royal visit!!!" In October 1943 he writes: "I can now tell you what you may already have guessed, that we are in Italy." He continues: "The towns are not up to much now, as you can imagine, but the people received us in a fairly friendly fashion." Later that month he writes: "We are in action in Italy, as you may have guessed. It is not too bad really. Sometimes we are very busy, and sometimes there is very little to do. The worst thing is the noise, which at times is deafening. Most of it is ours though. We get a lot of shelling now and again - though not dangerously close." On 23rd December '43 he writes: "...There is not much doing here at present, except getting ready for Christmas. He sent a few quite brief Photostat letters until 25th June 1944, when he reported that he had been in hospital suffering from impetigo, which had cleared up nicely. That however must have been when he 'went into the bag.' His next communication is a 'Kriegsgefangenpost' card from Stalag IXA, where he has become POW Nr 142942. I have two of these postcards dated late in 1944, which are written in pencil, and are reassuring, if necessarily extremely brief. He was repatriated late in 1945, and married the Red Cross nurse who had been assigned to look after him. I remember him telling us afterwards that early in 1945 gunfire could be heard in the camp, and seemed to be getting nearer in the East than in the West. Then one morning they woke up to find the guards gone, and the camp gates open. The prisoners gathered to discuss what should be done. Many favoured sitting tight waiting to be liberated. My uncle Bert was among those who feared that the Russians might well get there before the Allies, and take them into a new captivity. He joined a group who decided to set out on foot westwards, in the hope of reaching the advancing Allies. Hungry and nearly exhausted after several days on the road, they reached an abandoned farm, where there were still a few cows and some chickens. With shelter and the promise of milk, eggs and meat available, it was decided to hole up there and hope that the Allies would reach them first. During the weeks that followed they were able to trade eggs, milk and vegetables for cigarettes, German sausages & other valuables with the fleeing troops and refugees who passed, until the Allies did actually arrive. He went on to have a successful career and raise five sons before he died in 1981.

Brian Boyle



William Schofield "Mac " Mc Knight Royal Army Medical Corps

My father william Mc Knight became a POW on Crete where he gave himself up as he was ill and the Cretians who were hiding him had no medicine. He was in Stalag 8b where he took part in a concert of the Mikado, he was one of the three little maids from school we did have a few photos but they were lost. If anyone remembers him or has any photos of the concert I would love to hear from you. He was repatriated at some point before March 1944 as that was when he married my mum, he spent some time in the Q.A. hospital at Shenley on his return to Britain. Any help would be greatly appreciated thanks

carol powell



Bert Key

My father, Bert Key, was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was captured about the time of the Dunkirk evacuation. He was cut off with four other men while trying to rescue some wounded men who were needing attention. In the Camp he was in several shows which were put on and also he was in charge of the medical stores.

I was 10 when we last saw him (Christmas 1945) and 15 when he returned. What a waste of years. Mum and I missed him and we lived in London when he was missing. We heard he was a POW during the blitz and his first letter told my mother to 'take Shirley and get out of London', which she did. We were reunited just before the end of the war because he was sent back with some wounded men being repatriated because the Germans knew the Russians would arrive soon.

I regret not asking him more about the camp when he was alive - he died in 1977. He was a lovely man. I have read Sojourn in Silesia by Arthur Evans. I intend to visit the museum with my three adult children this year - any advice would be useful.

Shirley Jones



Corporal Albert Edward Wood RAMC

My grandfather, Cpl. Albert Edward Wood, from Exeter, was captured at Dunkirk whilst serving at a Casualty Clearing Station (possibly #12). He drew the short straw and had to stay behind to care for the injured at the chateau overlooking the beaches. Whilst being marched to Stalag 8B he lost the use of his legs, and was carried by his comrades to avoid the Nazis shooting him by the side of the road. He spent some time in the hospital wing before being transferred to a standard barrack room. He always impressed me with the way he could serve up any meal into exactly equal portions, a skill he acquired whilst a POW. He was invalided back to England in 1944. He never really talked about the war, and always spoke with contempt about the British command that left him in France. He received two service medals, which he never had any time for, and he never applied for a Dunkirk medal or a POW medal.

Philip Wood



Captain Hugh Davidson Miller George Medal

Does anyone remember a Captain Hugh Davidson Miller of the Royal Army Medical Corps? He was billeted in Scarborough, North Yorks, when it was subjected to a heavy raid on 18 March 1941 which started at 8.30pm when 98 enemy planes flew in and bombarded the town with HEs and incendaries. The raid ended with the all clear at 4.30am the next day. Fatalities were high and 3000 buildings were damaged.

Captain Miller showed bravery by crawling under a bombed house on Queens Terrace to administer morphine to those trapped, bombs were were falling around and an unexploded bomb lay only yards from him. I have searched and asked in various newspapers about the brave man as I would love to ask the Civic Society to put a plaque honouring him up on the wall of the now rebuilt house. He was awarded the George Medal at Buckingham Palace. I have tried for years to find anything about him but nothing.

Richard Percy



Alisdair " " Murray (d.May 1940)

We had the story from our mother, Alasdair Murray was a great friend of hers [who might have become our step-father we believe] He was killed or missing after Dunkirk. As he was a doctor in civilian life we believe he would have signed on with the RAMC. Any information from people who knew him or whose relatives heard about him would be greatly appreciated by me and my two brothers. as we three are now in our seventies we want to know where he is buried before it is too late for us. We think he would have been about 40 years old that year, but would probably have been between 36 and 45. With many thanks to anyone who can help.

Elizabeth Monck



Cpl. Reginald Walter Smith 12 Company Royal Army Medical Corps

My Father, Reginald Walter Smith, enlisted to the RAMC at Norwich in 1931, aged 17, and served as a regular soldier until 1938, when he left and entered management training with BATA Shoes Ltd, but remained on the army reserve list.

He rejoined voluntarily in June 1939, as the likelihood of war became apparent, and was mobilised as a member of 12 Company RAMC with the BEF in September 1939. He was initially stationed at No 1 Base Hospital, Rouen, and later No 2 Base Hospital.

Following the Dunkirk evacuation and as defeat in France became imminent, all personnel were ordered to leave Rouen and make for the channel ports further south, and I believe that he, and others, trekked the 200 miles to Saint Nazaire, before being taken off on the SS Oronsay.

Oronsay, despite being hit by two bombs and listing badly, went back to pick up survivors from the Lancastria, before sailing for England, and disembarking at Falmouth. Personnel were dispersed across the country, and my Father was sent to Leeds, before eventually being sent to North Africa where he remained for the duration of the war.

I would be particularly interested in any other recollections linked with my Father's time in France, especially his arrival (HS Maid of Kent?) and the period between leaving Rouen and arriving at Saint Nazaire

Nick Fenton-Smith



Major Percy " " Howe

I'm trying to find info on my Grandfather, Mjr. Percy Howe, all I know is he met my Grandmother at Caserta when she was a nurse there and he was based at Monte Cassino with the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Gemma Luisa Mercurio



Major James Stirling "Seamus" Kinnear Royal Army Medical Corps

I would love to hear from anyone who served in RAMC with my father, Major James Kinnear, in Iceland, E.Africa, Normandy. The snatches of wartime reminiscence to me as a young girl in the 50's are so bitty, humorous and tragic. He went on after the war to be a great surgeon in Dundee. He died aged 67, in 1980. Please contact me with any memories or service info. Thank you

Elizabeth Macnee



Pte. Joseph "Smokey Joe" Gardner Royal Army Medical Corps

I am trying to find out more information about my grandfather, Joseph (Smokey Joe) Gardner during the war. He served in the RAMC and was taken Prisoner of War at Doullens in 1943 and held at Stalag XXA. On 17th October 1943 he joined a Repratraion party and was repatriated from Goteborg, Sweden in 1943. From what I understand he went back to Germany after the war ended as a member of working party to assist in the re-building of Germany. He is no longer alive and did not talk about what happened to him during the time that he was a Prisoner of War. All I can say is that he was very keen on football and I feel sure that he would have played a huge part in any matches that were held within the camp.

Fiona Paterson



Pte. Andrew "Sonny" Wright Royal Army Medical Corps

I am looking for any information on my grandfather Andrew Wright's experiences during the war. We know that he was in the Royal Army Medical Corps stationed in Africa until he was transferred to defend Crete from invasion where he was captured in 1941 and spent the remainder of the war as a POW we think in Stalag 8b in Silesia Poland. He was sometimes known as Sonny and kept his spirits up by keeping pigeons and acting in plays. Does anyone remember him or have any information about him, it would be really appreciated.

Frances Quinn



Patrick James Cullenat Royal Army Medical Corps

My Granddad, Patrick Cullen, served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and I believe was captured in Belgium in 1940, unfortunately I don't know which prison camp he was held in. He enlisted in Birmingham in 1939 and was originally from the Moore Street area of Dublin. Does anyone have any information or memories? Any information will be gratefully received.

Rosheen Cullen



Cpl. Daniel O'Callaghan Royal Army Medical Corps

I would like to find any one who knew my Danny O'Callaghan, he served with the 15th Scottish Division.

Roy O'Callaghan



Rfm. Charles J. Hardman Kings Royal Rifle Corps

This is about my wife's Grandfather, We know he served with valour through out WW 2, this is testament to his two sons (David & Norman) and his late wife,(Evelyn). Charles J Hardman served with the PARA Regt, KRRC, and the RAMC, and several other regiments during the war. This we know from his own personal stories. We as a family would like to re-trace his journey throughout his military career. As a career soldier myself , I would like to keep this WW2 heroes memories alive.

Darren Pagett



Pte. Ernest John Walton 3rd Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps (d.8th Feb 1944)

Pte Ernest J Walton of the 3rd Field Ambulance, RAMC was killed at Anzio on the 8th Feb 1944. If anyone has knowledge of what events took place this day and the preciding few days we would be very grateful.

Anthony Cox



Pte. George Vickers Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, George Vickers passed away recently, whilst sorting through his paperwork I found details of his service during WW2. He was in N.W. Europe between 14.11.1944 till 29.10.1945, then he was posted to the Middle East from 19.12.1945 till 14.08.1946. I would be grateful if anyone could tell me anything that might help me find out what he did. He never talked about the war to me but he mentioned once to my brother, when pressed, that he was a stretcher bearer and he saw some awful sights.

Geoff Vickers



Sgt. Graham William Porter Reid 153rd (Highland) Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

I have recently read papers belonging to my late father, Graham W P Reid who was captured at St Valery. He was in the 153rd (Highland) Field Ambulance RAMC(T) and a POW in Stalag XXa from June 1940 - January 1945. He was Camp Commandant and I have lists of many who were with him during that time and a diary of the time when they were released.

Like so many, he talked little in the 50s and 60s,except with local POWs in Aberdeen, but did begin to tell stories to our two sons in later years. I have read many of the stories from folk on this site, but have yet to find how to see the photos. Like one person says, he spoke of Camp plays with Sam Kydd.

I would so love to hear from others whose parents and grandparents may have been there with him and who might appear in his letters or on the lists.

Rev Joan Foster



Medical Orderly George Donaldson Andrew Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, George Andrew, was conscripted in 1941 and served in the Medical Corps. After spells in Leeds and Lincolnshire, he was posted to Malta, and after some time there,to Kos. He was captured by the Germans(3/10/43)- although they knew the Germans were coming, escape was impossible.

After capture,he spent 15 days in a train (in a goods wagon) travelling to Stalag 4b (Muhlburg) where he lived out the rest of the war. There was one piece of ground in the camp which the prisoners were not allowed to touch (although I believe they were allowed to grow vegetables elsewhere): the bodies of Russian prisoners who had died from typhus a few years earlier were buried there.

A few weeks after VE Day, with the rumour that the Russians were coming, he managed to get out and reach the U.S.lines with a friend; they had no food but a farmer's wife cooked her "laying hen" for them. The Americans flew them to R.A.F. Northolt (in a DC-3) and father said that seeing the White Cliffs of Dover was a wonderful feeling.

My father died in January 2006, just short of his 90th birthday.

Neil Andrew



H. Reith Royal Medical Corps

Sir, My Uncle brought home a Swagger stick after WWII. He gave it to my mother. When my mother passed away in 1991, I started going through all her 'Stuff'. I found this Royal Medical Corp Swagger stick. I did not notice the name scratched into the stick until just recently. The name - H. Reith is scratched on the stick. I would like to know if he or any of his family would like this Swagger Stick? Can you help?

Louis J Helms



Pte. John Edward Mcloughlin Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, John Mcloughlin served from aproximatly 1943 to 1946. He served in England and Germany.

Peter Mcloughlin



Pte. William Leonard Garrod 12 General Hospital Royal Army Medical Corps (d.6th Dec 1943)

My father William Garrod was in the RAMC in Eygpt. I am particularly interested to know more information about where the Hospitals were in Cairo Egypt, and what the Light Field Ambulance Unit did.

On 17.10.1940 my father began training at Boyce Barracks and became hospital cook 23.10.1940 with D company 1st Depot RAMC. On 9.7.1941 he was posted to 2 Depot RAMC and on 29.9.1941 he embarked to Egypt. On 21.7.1942 he became a nursing orderly at 2 General Hospital Middle East. On 23.4.1943 he moved to 42 General Hospital as a cook and on 3.4.1944 posted to 3(1) light field ambulance supplies in Egypt.On 14.4.1944 he became Hospital cook 1 at 12 General Hospital Middle East Force then on 2.6.1945 posted to 13 General Hospital, and then 16 General Hospital. On 4.9.1945 he left for UK on python 27 and on 26.10.1945 was posted to 9 company RAMC at Colchester

I have spent a number of days reading the War Diaries at the National Archives, Kew. Does anyone have any stories relating to any of these units?

David Garrod



Sgt. James Anderson Comrie MID. Royal Army Medical Corps

I am trying to establish the war experiences of my father, James Anderson Comrie(born 1917. died 1990.) I know my dad served in the Second World War in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was posted overseas in 1941 and spent time in India. He was based at Pune and spent time in Kochima.He was in Calcutta in 1943. He was awarded the MID. He also served ,I believe, in Burma, and was awarded the Burmese Star. He was also mentioned in dispatches during the war. He never spoke of the War and any information I could glean regarding his life in India would be very precious. Photos,documents etc would be priceless.

Stephen A. Comrie



Sgt Horace A. A. Roach DCM. Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Horace Roach served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Karachi, India. I have a picture from the Gazette of him in front of Buckingham Palace with my mother and me as a baby in her arms. He received the DCM from King George.

I am trying to find out whatever happened to him as I lost contact with him in the 1960's, he had 4 children then from his 2nd marriage - Dolores, Tamara, Franscesca and Nicholas. Is there a way to find him. The last time I visited him he was working for the Civil Service and lived in Blackpool in 1965. Any information on best way to find my father, if he is still alive, would be appreciated.

Maria Bradshaw



Len Hoggart Royal Army Medical Corps

I am a retired vicar and whilst in active ministry in the Footscray area near Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, in the mid to late 1960s, Len Hoggart approached me with his medals and asked me to look after them as the annual ANZAC anniversaries revived terrible memories for him. Mr Hoggart did not again contact me and on my current visit to England, I endeavoured to trace any surviving relatives of Mr Hoggart to pass on his medals to them. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. I would appreciate any information that might assist in locating any surviving relatives who may be interested. He was awarded the 1939-1945 Star; Africa Star and 1st Army Bar; Italy

David French



Capt. John Edward Roberts 146 Field Ambulance Army Dental Corps

I believe my father, John Roberts was in 146th Field Ambulance attached to the Hallamshires with 146th Brigade, 49th West Riding Division and went ashore on D-Day+2 on an American TLC and shortly afterwards the whole Division was, I believe, co-opted to the Canadian Army and advanced with them through France, Belgium and Holland. Ending up at Nijmegen. I was also informed that his unit relieved one of the German concentration camps.

He also related a tale whilst in Normandy of a British fighter, possibly a Spitfire, being shot down by nearby friendly fire and crashing in the field, extremely close to their marquees and ambulances.

My father survived the war and set up a dental practice in Lymington, Hampshire in 1946. He retired in 1971 and after the death of his wife in 1991 came to live with us in Jersey till his death in 2000.

Would it be possible to verify some of these details? My son and grandson are very interested in Pop's exploits because, as with many ex-servicemen,they are very reticent about many of the unpleasant memories.

E.Peter Roberts



Walter John Guy 1st Btn. Parachute Regiment

Walter was in the Royal Army Medical Corps until 1941. He was at Dunkirk after been diverted on his way to Panama and narrowly escaped capture but was saved by one of the many small boats that sailed to France under heavy fire.

In 1941 he joined the 1st Parachute Regiment and was caught at Arnhem and made a POW the last six months of the war. My brother thinks my dad was at Monte Cassino and I know he went to Italy, North Africa, Greece, Egypt & Arnhem not sure where else.

He also had his name in the Golden Book in Paris. He belonged to the Dunkirk Veterans and when he died they came to his funeral with the flags and I know he would have liked that. A very proud moment for us all. My brother sent £20.00 several years ago to the Army Service Records to find out about dad's service but we never knew his service number and never heard back from them. He finally forgot all about it.

Dad did not talk about what happened in the War but he suffered poor health when returning home from the War in a Lancaster bomber. We can only go by his medals. A friend described what he thought they were the 1st being the Africa star. That meant he served in Africa between 10th June 1940-12th May 1943. He said it would say either 1st or 8th Army on it. If 1st Army, he served in Tunisia or Algeria between 8th Nov-31st Dec 1942. If it is 8th Army, then he served in Egypt and Libya from 23rd Oct 1942-12th May 1943. The next medal is the Italy Star,for service in Italy and the Med between 11th June 1943-8th May 1945. The next one is the 1939-45 Star. He got this for service overseas. The one below is the 1939-45 War Medal, which he got for serving in uniform for more than 28 days. The medal with the green-orange-green ribbon is the Defence Medal. It was awarded for defence of Britain during a time of threatened enemy invasion and who served 3 years at home. The next two are foreign medals, the first is the Dunkirk Assoc Medal the other I don't know. All I can tell you is that its a Belgian Medal, but I've never seen one before.

Can anyone help me find out more please. My dad Walter John Guy was born 1919 he joined the army in 1936.

Christine Guy Westall



Pte. Harry Godfrey 17th London General Hospital Royal Army Medical Corps

I am researching the wartime experiences of my late father, Private Harry Godfrey. He came from Nottingham and he was a Private in the RAMC 17th London General Hospital.

He was captured on or around 22nd May 1940 near Dunkirk and spent the next 3 and a half years in prisoner of war camps. I know he was held for a time in Stalag XXB, being released in October 1943.

Like many others he was very reluctant to talk about his experiences, only occasionally opening up and only then towards the end of his life (he died in 2004). I believe he may also have been held elsewhere but have no details. He had a close friend from Nottingham, the late Albert Alvey, who was also in the same RAMC Unit, but held separately from my father. From what my father did tell me conditions were extremely harsh, only improving a little when Red Cross parcels arrived later on. I have his camp identification tags and a couple of what appear to be receipts from the Camp authorities for items of bedding and clothing that were posted from home later on in his captivity.

My father talked very little of his experiences and I would be delighted to hear from anyone who remembers him, or from anyone who recognises themselves, or a relative in this picture. I would also be pleased to hear from anyone who was serving in the RAMC 17th or is related to someone who was.

Howard Godfrey



S/Sgt. Charles Walter Adams 10 Coy. Royal Army Medical Corps

I am trying to trace my father's movements during the early part of WW2. He enlisted as a regular soldier in 1926 in the East Surrey Regiment and transferred to the RAMC in April 1929. He was graded as a superintending dispenser in 1939.

He served in Gibraltar, India, Palestine and Malaya and as far as I know, he was at Dunkirk. He was hospitalised in December 1940, posted to 12 Company in January 1941, back to 10 Company then posted to the 'Y' List and subsequently discharged in July 1941 as being permanently unfit for any form of military service. (K.R. 1940 Para 390 (XV1)

I have his Certificate of Service Book and have obtained his service records from the Historical Disclosures Section in Glasgow, but there is no mention of Dunkirk. Unfortunately, my father died in 1957 having spent many years in hospital. I would be most appreciative if anyone could give me any further information as I am only a child.

Roger Adams



Pte. John Blackhaw Smith Royal Army Medical Corps

We are researching our father's war time history, John Smith enlisted at Glasgow on 3rd april 1940. He served in Iceland, North Africa and Italy with the medical corps.

Jeanie Lankshear



William Briggs Royal Army Medical Corps

The photograph attached to this e mail is I believe the brother of my father Albert Briggs. His name is William Briggs who was born in Newcastle under Lyme Staffordshire in 1906. My paternal grandfather Frederick Briggs died in 1911 when William was just five and my father was 3yrs old. I believe my grandmother Florence (nee Norris) could not afford to keep her family together and consequently my father was sent to Ireland to live with an aunt and I am not sure where William went to, as my father could only tell me that as far as he knew William emigrated to either New Zealand or Australia. How true that is I do not know as the photograph was taken in 1936 and the National Archives have identified the uniform and badge to be that of the Medical Corps. If anyone recognises this man please get in touch.

Florence Swinton



Captain Ernest Edwards Royal Medical Corps

I am trying to trace my father's military background. He was born on 11th January 1906 and passed away on 23 Oct 1977. He was a doctor who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps as part of British Indian Army from 1941-1945. He had served somewhere in the Middle East (have an old photo of him at El Alamein!!). Will be grateful for any information including the units he served with and locations where he was posted etc. Thank you Best Wishes

Rajiv Edwards



Thomas "Mac" Mcknight Royal Army Medical Corps

I know my father Thomas Mcknight was taken prisoner at Dunkirk.I believe that because he was a medical orderley he was sent to Stalag Luft III to work in the camp medical centre. If anybody has seen his name or photograph anywhere in their relatives archives could you please post it on this site. Or if there are any surviving members of the camp who may have known my Dad could you please post the information on this site.

Paul Mcknight



Pte. Stanley Hewes Royal Army Medical Corps

My father Stanley Hewes was prisoner of war In Poland in Stalag XXA for 5 years. He will not talk about his time as a prisoner but have found out quite a bit from his mate George Hemblem from Norwich who he paled up with and keep in touch until Georges death about 5 years ago. I have recently cleared out his house because he has had to go into a home after a fall in December and came across a lot of photos.

Sally Hewes



James Walter Wood Royal Army Medical Corps

My uncle, Jim Ward, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was in uniform when he married in September 1939. He was captured in 1940 and incarcerated in Stalag 8B. He came back from the camp a broken man, I believe he may have been medically repatriated but don't know when. In the 1950s he disappeared and we never heard from him again, although he sent money to support his son's education.




Cpl. William Graham HMS Somersetshire

My late father served on the Hospital ship Somersetshire during the war as a Corporal in the RAMC.  His name is William Graham, in the photo he is the one with his arm behind his head. I have been trying to find out where she served, is there anyone out there with any information?

Barbara Lamb



Pte. John Shaughnessy Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, John Shaughnessy, always known as Jack or Shon was captured at Dunkirk. He took his friend Tom to the last place in a boat as he had been shot in the face and turned back to the beach, too late to get to another boat he was captured by the Germans. He was then marched to a POW camp in Germany but escaped only to be given away at a safe house in France by a collaberateur. He was then taken to Stalag XX at Thorn. I always was told that as he was a medic he was in a camp for non-combatants with doctors and padres and other medics.

One day they were being marched back from the fields, where they were made to work for the farmers, and a train had stopped below the bridge they were crossing. The guards had thrown an old Jewish man out to die on the side of the tracks. My father, being a Shaughnessy and a medic, tried to get down on to the tracks to help him. The German guard saved his life by knocking him unconcious with his rifle-butt and ordering his comrades to carry him back to camp as they could see the officer at the head of the column taking out his sidearm to shoot my dad because they did not want anyone to see what was happening to the Jews who were being taken to the death-camps.

He tried to escape again and broke his back falling. The Germans gave them Plaster of Paris and medical supplies and they contrived traction from two bunks and treated his broken back. Because of this my dad was repatriated via the Red Cross in early 1944.

The army changed his number and he was sent over to France on D-Day plus 1 in a glider. He fought through France and went down the Suez Canal to India were he spent the last months of the war in the BMH in Calcutta. From where he was demobbed in 1946 and came home.

He recovered from both the broken jaw caused by the rifle-butt and the broken back and suffered greatly with his feet because of the forced march from Dunkirk to Germany with boots that had been immersed in sea-water.

In 1957, he was diagnosed with a brain-tumour and died after a short illness. All the stories I have heard have come from my mother and my uncle and I have no way of verifying them as I never heard my father mention the war. He had two small china aeroplanes, souvenirs of Thorn, which a farmer's wife gave him in exchange for some rations from his Red Cross parcel, my brother has them now. I have some photos and paper-work from Stalag XXa, including one very similar to one already on this website, with all the men dressed up for a panto or play.

Maureen Benton



RSM. Arthur Graham Royal Army Medical Corps

My uncle Arthur Graham was in the army before WW2 broke out, but I dont know how much before; and I think he was in Egypt, Greece, Crete, and either Germany and or Poland, and possibly maybe Italy and Morocco. I do not recall him ever being persauded to talk about the army or the war, when I was a child.

The little I do know is that he was amongst the medical corp who opened up Bergen-Belson, and that he did joke once that he didnt so much leave Greece and Crete but run through it! I know he was an RSM but dont know for how long he held that rank. I would be grateful if anybody has any memories of him could contact me.

Lynda Graham



Pte. Samuel N.M.I. O'Brien Royal Army Medical Corps

I have been looking into my father's service with the RAMC in WW2. Samuel O'Brien was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. He was 19 or 20 when he enlisted. I am waiting on his records from the army, but I was hoping that there may be some who remembered him. He passed away in 1995 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Whatever any one can add will be most welcome. Thanks to all the vets.

Gary O'Brien



L/Cpl Alistair Crawford Cameron MacRitchie 153rd Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

My father Alister MacRitchie was captured on the cliff top at St.Valery-en-Caux with the 51st Highland Division on the 12th of June 1940. He was marched, trucked, marched, trained, barged, and trained again (32 hours, 50 men to a truck, with no water) to Stalag XXA in Thorn in Poland where he worked on various work details in satellite camps. As he was "protected personnel", being a medical orderly, he was repatriated through Sweden in October 1943 as part of the first successful prisoner exchange with the Germans.

My Dad (far right) with his two pals, Allan Cameron and Archie Day, "The Three Musketeers" or "The Three Must Get Beers", who were in his unit and were captured with him.

This is a German photo of my Dad and others at one of the satellite camps. My Dad swears that the faces in the photographs had been touched up to make everyone look fatter and healthier than they really were.

Alan Moore, who was a fellow POW of my father's at one of the camps, was recently featured on The Antiques Roadshow, Remembrance Day Special recounting the story of the radio that was smuggled in and operated in the camp (he still has the radio). My Dad's story, transcribed from his own handwritten notes and POW diaries, is recounted in "Chrismas in the Lager - Worse than a Sunday" available from www.blurb.com.

The following are fellow POWs with their POW numbers whom he listed in his diary:

  • Cameron, A. 18476
  • McPherson 18536
  • MacRitchie, A 18702
  • Chapman 17238
  • Bridges, A. 50131
  • Hawley 18502
  • Drake, D. 50130
  • Elliott, A. 13785
  • Case, G. 50136
  • Bynes 18313
  • Lait, W. 15225
  • Tucker
  • Young, G. 16995
  • McKenzie 11244

    IN HOSPITAL

  • Moran, W. 18262
  • McKenzie 16904
  • Smith, J. 18171
  • Underwood
  • Henry, A. 18408
  • Small
  • Kennedy 18185
  • McFarlane
  • Castle, N. 18254
  • Woods 17244
  • Steven, C. 18545
  • Borne 18272
  • Ross, T. 15149
  • Firth 17074
  • Smith, A.V. 15230
  • Masters
  • McQueen 18387

Stuart MacRitchie



Capt. John Stanley I'anson Chesshire MC. Royal Army Medical Corps

John Chesshire died aged 96 on the 27th of November 2011. His obituary appeared in the Daily Telegraph on the 3rd of January 2012 as follows:

In March 1944 Chesshire, a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), was serving as Medical Officer to 1st Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment (1 SSR), part of 77th Indian Infantry Brigade. In the middle of the month the Brigade blocked the railway at Henu, northern Burma. Faced with this threat to their supply lines, the Japanese attacked and, on March 17, the regimental aid post manned by Chesshire and a colleague, Captain Thorne, was overrun.

The two officers continued to operate and tend the wounded until a counter-attack repelled the enemy. Days of heavy shelling followed, but Chesshire carried on with his work even though it meant standing in the open while others were able to take shelter. During the first two weeks of the month-long battle, he was senior MO to the Brigade. On at least five occasions shells landed close to his operating theatre. The citation for his MC estimated that 500 men had passed through his hands during the campaign. It paid tribute to his tireless energy under dreadful conditions, which had saved many lives and provided a great boost to morale.

John Stanley I’Anson Chesshire, the son of a clergyman, was born on September 8 1915 at the rectory at Stourport-on-Severn. After leaving Marlborough he wanted to become a missionary, a vocation that his father had followed as a young man. He decided, however, to become a doctor, reasoning that he would find other ways to satisfy his initial ambition. He went up to Birmingham University to read Medicine and was then apprenticed to the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. As a junior registrar he was always short of money and supplemented his income by assisting the brain surgeon – who could only use the theatres at night because of the length of time that most of his operations took.

When war was declared Chesshire was exempted from call-up but, after pestering the authorities, joined the RAMC and accompanied 1 SSR to India and then Burma. After the conflict he started practising as a GP, based at Knighton, Radnorshire; in the early 1950s, however, he resigned from the National Health Service and transferred to the Colonial Service so that he could take his surgical skills to Malaya. After eight years there during the Emergency, he spent a year in Sumatra as Esso’s chief medical officer.

Chesshire subsequently returned to Knighton and became a hill-farmer, rearing Welsh ewes and Hereford cattle. During the lambing season he converted a large wooden crate into a shepherd’s hut, had it taken to the top of Stowe Hill and camped with just a primus stove for warmth.

When the missionary in him emerged once more, he set off for Borneo. On one occasion, on a trip into the jungle to attend someone who was ill, he experienced severe stomach pains. A self-diagnosis confirmed his fears. He had acute appendicitis and he was the only medical practitioner for many miles. He did, however, have a medical orderly with him whom he instructed to set up a primitive operating table with a mirror over it. Chesshire then gave himself a large dose of local anaesthetic and, with the aid of the mirror, proceeded to guide the orderly through an operation to remove the appendix.

He retired from farming in the late 1970s but continued to practise medicine and enjoyed fishing into old age. An accomplished fly fisherman, when his legs were not strong enough to support him, he would tie himself to a tree to avoid falling into the water. Geology was another absorbing interest and he achieved some striking results using boot polish to make paintings of rock formations. He married, in 1949, Marion Walker. She predeceased him and he is survived by their three sons and a daughter.

Henry Chesshire



Pte. Ernest Edward Cochrane MID. No.18 Company Royal Army Medical Corps

Ernie was born in East Ham in the East End of London on 18th April 1917. At the outbreak of war in 1939 he was a conscientious objector. Nonetheless, on June 6th 1940 he was deemed to have enlisted in the Territorial Army Non-Combatant Corp and posted to A.M.P Corps. No.2 Centre, Caister. During the 1930s Ernie had gained a St John's Ambulance first aid qualification so he was discharged from the T.A. to join the Royal Army Medical Corps. Aged 23, he took the oath of Allegiance at Girton College Cambridge and was posted to R.A.M.C. No.18 Company. He was graded and mustered and posted to No.1 Depot and Training Establishment R.A.M.C. Crookham (Crookham Camp, Aldershot) with the rank of Private and service trade, Nursing Officer Class II. The date was September 4th 1940.

Ernie said the R.A.M.C. was otherwise known as "Run Away Matron's Coming". After receiving training, his company embarked on a convoy ship departing from Glasgow on Dec 12th 1940 for Malta. No sooner had the ship left the Clyde than its engine started producing plumes of black smoke. Being unable to keep up the convoy it was left behind and forced to continue alone, pouring smoke, a sitting duck to any U-boat. Luckily, they did make it to Gibraltar. After repairs there, the ship set sail for Malta but was forced to divert to Pireas in Greece first because of German bombing. Malta was under siege by the Germans 1940-1942.

Eventually, on January 14th 1941, Ernie disembarked in Malta and remained there throughout the siege. Two days later on 16th January HMS Illustrious was bombed in Grand Harbour. Life on Malta was not easy. Ernie thought the troops probably faired better than the locals as at least they had some army rations. When he arrived, he said, there were lots of cats and dogs on the island but by the time he left there were only their fleas. His cousin Doreen, a young evacuee back in England, was chastised by Ernie after she wrote to him about all the nice things she’d had to eat at Christmas.

At one time on Malta, Ernie was in a cinema which was bombed. He was eventually dug out of the rubble without, he claimed, a scratch on him. Whether this event accounts for his stay in the General Hospital Imtarfa between May 5th and June 13th 1941, we do not know.

On Sept 4th 1941 Ernie was advanced to Nursing Officer Group 'C' Class I, although it wasn’t until March 1943, after the siege of Malta had effectively ended, that he undertook the required course of instruction at 45 Gen Hasp. Recognition of his status as Nursing Officer Class I was not noted in his service record until April 14th 1943.

On Aug 26th 1943 Ernie left Malta. He was taken by ship to N. Africa for a new posting with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. En route many suffered from stomach upsets which were officially put down to seasickness but Ernie put down to bad bully beef. They landed in N. Africa (Alexandria, Egypt) and from here they were taken to Haifa by railway.

Ernie’s service record states that on Sep 20th 1943 he was “Moved for unknown destination” and three days later “Disembarked in Cos”. Cos had been held by the Italians until September 1943 when an unconditional armistice with the Allies was announced. Ernie and a couple of fellow medics were sent to Cos to assist the British fighting troops there at an inland medical unit.

On Oct 3rd 1943 at 4.30am Germans invaded Cos with Ju 87 dive bombers, Brandenburg Division paratroopers and sea-bourne troops. From the medical unit they could see the German's parachuting into the hills in and around Antimachia. They could hear the bombing and shooting but their commander said there was nothing to do but wait. The following morning the Germans arrived at the medical station and commanded the allied troops to collect their belongings and line up outside. Not wishing to be a POW Ernie escaped via his hut's back window and headed for the sea. When an uproar ensued behind he dived into an irrigation ditch to hide and await darkness before moving off. After the war Ernie learnt that his mate, nicknamed Tiny, was taken prisoner that day and spent the rest of the war in a German stalag.

That night Ernie hid under a bridge to sleep. Early morning the next day he was alarmed to find there was a German Officer shaving outside a nearby hut. Ernie was forced to wait until the coast was clear before emerging. He made his way to the sea and searched in vain along the coast for a boat. Whilst sitting in the sand dunes eating his emergency rations he heard a German soldier shout "Achtung". He hurriedly slithered into sea on his belly. In panic he swam under water for as long as possible to avoid detection thus beginning a ten miles swim to the Turkish mainland. At this time Turkey remained neutral in the war. Ernie had been a champion swimmer in his East Ham swimming club so was not daunted. His swim was guided by the lights of a fishing port on the Turkish coast. He found an oil drum in the sea to aid his buoyancy. He was picked up near the Turkish coast by a Turkish fishing boat. At the local port he found many other escapees who had arrived by boat but no-one else who had swum. When my father told me this story in the 1990s his narrative was in the singular. However, one of my brothers says Ernie was not alone on his escape endeavor but our father had told him that none of his other compatriots actually survived the swim. Ernie was unsure what had happened to them.

From Turkey the escapees traveled in a landing craft to Castel-Rosso (now called Kastelorizo), a Greek island further east, 2 miles off the Turkish coast and still held by the British. From here Ernie was evacuated to Beirut. The 18th Company R.A.M.C. were still based in Haifa, Palestine. However, in Beirut Ernie is not immediately sent to re-join his unit in Haifa but held in solitary confinement and asked to write what has happened and how he got here. He doesn't find out, until arriving back in Palestine on 14th October, that his comrades have been asked to read his account and verify he is who he claims to be. He thinks the military may have thought him a potential spy.

Two weeks later, on Oct 31st 1943, Ernie is moved once again from “Palestine to unknown destination”. On Nov 3rd 1943 he disembarked on Leros. He is here nearly 2 weeks before the Germans come. During this time an officer insist they paint a big red cross on the roof of their forward medical station so it wouldn't be bombed. Vain hope! On Nov 12th 1943 at 4.30am the Germans landed on Leros and heavy fighting ensued. Ernie was Mentioned in Dispatches for distinguished service. This was published in the London Gazette 23rd March 1944. He thinks this may have been for single handedly rescuing a badly injured soldier when their forward medical station was bombed. His senior officer had gone in search of transport and never returned.

In the morning of the 16th the British surrendered. Back in the UK Ernie was reported “Missing (Aegean)” and “Posted to X(VI) DCL 748/43”. However, Ernie along with the injured allied troops were loaded aboard a hospital ship as POWs and set sail for Northern Italy - ultimate destination a stalag. The details of what happened next are unclear. There are two, not necessarily conflicting versions. En route they came across a British held ship full of injured German prisoners of war. The two commanders agreed to swap prisoners. Alternatively, en route they encountered the Royal Navy which forced the hospital ship into Brindisi. Either way Ernie landed in Allied held Brindisi, Southern Italy on December 12th 1943. Back home his record entry states “Previously reported missing now located having been recaptured. Removed from X(VI) DCL 755/43”. On December 18th he is “posted to X(IV)C”. On 24th December he joins the British North Africa Force and posted to X(i) which was a list of escaped POWs awaiting repatriation to the UK. From Brindisi in Italy he sailed to N.Africa and his photographs show a transport train in the Atlas mountains between Tunis and Algiers in Dec 1943 and a large group of British soldiers in uniform at Fort de l'Eau Algeria (a suburb of Algiers) in Jan 1944.

Ernie lands back in England at the port of Liverpool and by the end of January he is back in London. His service record on the 8th February declares that he is “Disembarked UK from overseas”; “Posted to 'Y' List Class 'D' (Escaped POWs)” and given some leave.

On March 23rd 1944 Ernie learned he has be awarded the Emblem for being Mentioned in Dispatches in recognition of gallant & distinguished services in the field. On 7th April 1944 he was required back at work with the R.A.M.C. 18th Company stationed in Millbank Barracks, London SW1. Ernie was set to work in the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital (QEMH) Millbank. These buildings later became Chelsea College of Art & Design and part of Tate Britain next door. Ernie claimed that the only thing of note he did from then to the end of war was to give King Hussein of Jordan TTC injections. It could have been different as, at some stage, there was the toss of a coin to decide which of two Medical Officers is to serve in the D Day landings (June 6th 1944). Ernie stayed in London!

In Ernie’s medical report in April 1946, prior to his release, the countries in which he served are listed as: Malta 2yrs 9 months; Dodecanese & Palestine (together) 4 months; Italy and Algeria (together) 2 months; U.K. 2 years. Ernie proceeded on terminal leave on May 9th 1946 and went on to a highly successful career in Local Government Public Cleansing.

After a whirlwind romance Ernie proposed to Wren Olive Winifred Bailes. They met at a YWCA dance in London and married at St George & St Ethelbert Parish Church East Ham, London E6 on July 26th 1944. There were no photographs of this wartime wedding as there was no photographic paper available at the time. They were married for over 50 years and had 4 children.

It was not until he was in his eighties and nineties that my father talked about his wartime service and then only very seldom, when pressed. We do know he suffered from bad nightmares associated with his wartime experiences and particularly his cinema bombing experience on Malta and his underwater escape from Cos. His sister, my Auntie Edie, said that during the war people were continually warned that “Talk Costs Lives” so became used to not to talking about their work and after the war everyone just wanted to forget and get on with their lives. The story here is derived from the bits my father told us, memories from his sister and cousin, and his wartime photographs, all pieced together with the aid of his wartime service record and the internet. We acquired his service record from the Historical Disclosures Section of the Army Personnel Centre in Glasgow, after my father’s death in January 2010 aged 92.

Ernest Cochrane, Floriana, Malta 1942

Malta 1941 From left to right: ?? : Ernest Cochrane : G. Goodie : Owen Green

The bombing of HMS Illustrious, Grand Harbour, Malta January 16th 1941

Ernest Cochrane on the right. From Illustrated August 29th 1942

Transportation train in the Atlas Mountains between Tunis & Algiers December 1943

Fort de l'Eau Algeria January 1944

Olive Winifred Bailes (W.R.N.S. No 46361)

Ernest Cochrane aged 92 (Dec.2009)

Citation Certificate

Lesley Parks



Leslie Baker Royal Army Medical Corps

My Grandad Leslie Baker died when I was 7. I belive he saw action with the LRDG and with General Teto in Yugoslavia. Any information would be very greatful.

Dawn Hardy



Sgt. Robert James Knox No. 30 Coy. Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Robert James Knox, enlisted on 12th December 1940 and was trained at Crooks Barracks, Aldershot. He was a state registered nurse having qualified at Walton Hospital Liverpool in 1938.

He sailed to Malta on 11th July 1941 as part of Operation Substance. The convey was attacked on 23rd July and my father spent some time in the water and eventually reached Valetta on 24th July when he was posted to No. 30 Company RAMC working at 117 Military Hospital, Mtarfa for the next three years during the Siege of Malta. Whilst in Malta he played for the Army at Hockey

He was promoted to Corporal on 28th October 1941 and Sargeant on 28th August 1942 and continued to nurse both service personel and civilians until 5th February 1944 when he left Malta on ill health grounds and was discharged from the RAMC on 10th March 1944 following the amputation of his leg for medical reasons. He was aged 30. After the war he continued nursing at Lambeth hospital until his second leg was amputated in 1952 and he died in 1963 at the age of 49. I know very little more as I was 16 when he died and he rarely spoke about his war time experiences.

Bob Knox



Sgt. William Briggs 207 Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

William Briggs was my uncle. After the death of my grand father in 1911, my father was sent to live with an aunt in Ireland as my grand mother could not afford to keep her three young sons. She kept the youngest child Frederick, but where William then age four years went to remains a mystery. I have however come across these photos of the Royal Army Medical Corps, 207 Field Ambulance, whose Headquarters were on Kings Road, Stretford, Manchester. If anyone knows anthing about this unit or recognizes any of the men in the photos please contact me.

Florence Swinton



Capt. Thomas Stephens MC & Bar.

My Grandmothers’s brother, Dr Thomas Stephens, served in the RAMC and was attached to the 4/16th Punjab Regiment. I understand he was at El Alamein and Monte Cassino. I was told he was awarded an MC at El Alamein and an MC Bar at Cassino. However, whilst I have been unable to find any record of the MC for El Alamein, I have found details of an immediate MC awarded at Cassino. I have found a copy of his citation dated 15 March 1944 which reads as follows and was recommended by Lt Col S.W. Packwood:

“On the night of 13-14th Feb 1944 the Btn took over the sector immediately North of the Cassino Monastery and flanking the much disputed Pt593. From the outset casualties came in in a steady stream and Capt T. Stephens, the Btn M.O. was continually occupied, not only in dealing with casualties of his own Btn, but also with those of at least two other Btns in nearby sectors which came through his R.A.P. This continued till 17th Feb and this M.O. worked without relief under conditions continually fraught with danger for long periods both day and night. The climax was reached on the morning of 18 Feb when ½ G.R and 1/9 G.R. attacked the monastery position. Casualties were very heavy and the Btn RAP formed the bottleneck through which they had to pass. The R.A.P. and approaches to it were continually under shell and mortar fire. Stretcher bearer parties, mostly consisting of personnel new to the area, had to be organised and put into action. Capt Stephens was prominent in this work throughout this period. Apart from dealing with scores of casualties he personally led stretcher parties on numerous occasions to where casualties lay and where it was almost certain death to venture. His example and untiring efforts throughout were inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of his corps.

Since 21st Feb the Btn has been in an area continually harassed by artillery, mortars and nebelwafers. Casualties have been frequent and the enemy fire at all times well concentrated and prolonged. Capt Stephens has always been first on the scene of casualties and often before the enemy fire has ceased. His alertness, promptitude and courage has been responsible for the saving of many lives and his actions have become a source of great moral comfort to all ranks of the Btn." Commandant, 4th Btn, 16th Punjab Regiment”

Prior to the War, Tom was a GP in Ardsley, Nr Wakefield, Yorks. I know that Tom had two sons who I believe were called Timothy & Nigel, but have been unable to trace them. Anyone who can shed any further light on Tom or his sons would be much appreciated.

Alison Dickinson



Sgt. William Briggs 207 Field Ambulance Brigade Volunteers Royal Army Medical Corps

William Briggs in March 1936.

207 Field Ambulance group.

R.A.M.C group photo.

William Briggs and two colleagues.

Clarence Cockhill and William Briggs RAMC

William Briggs born 1906 in Stafford, he was my fathers' brother. Unfortunately my father, Albert, and William were separated following the death of their father Frederick. My father was sent to live in Ireland with an aunt and my grandmother Florence kept her youngest son Frederick who was only a baby at that time. Where William went to remains a mystery. My father knew nothing of William's whereabouts and unfortunately never had the opportunity to find out on his return to civilian life after serving in the Army WW2

I have discovered that William Briggs served in the Royal Army Medical Corps 207 Field Ambulance Brigade Volunteers and these are some photographs of William and his fellow officers. Their HQ was on Kings Road in Manchester. Do you recognize any of these men? I would love to hear from you if you do.

Florence Swinton



Pte. Edward George Witt Royal Army Medical Corps

Edward Witt is standing in the top photo by the pole, with his shirt sleeves rolled up and a fag in his mouth. Stalag 4a Christmas 1943

My Dad Edward Witt was a stretcher bearer the Royal Army Medical Corps and was held in Stalag 4a after he was taken as a POW from Crete.

Philip Witt



Henry William Clarke Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandfather Henry Clarke was in the Royal Army Medical Corps. I know he signed up in Birmingham. I wondered if anyone had any information?

Johanna Clarke



Sgt. Edward Herbert "Jack" Stradling 39th General Hospital

Like almost all ex-servicemen, my Dad, Edward Stradling didn't talk about his war experiences very much. Dad joined up as a regular in 1932. It was steady work at a time when there was little about. He was stationed in Bermuda for about 3 years in the mid 30's. He and Mum returned in the 90's for a wonderful trip with old friends especially Tom and Lois Aitchison.

During the War, Dad was part of the BEF and was picked up at Dunkirk. He was awarded the Dunkirk medal. We took him back. It was a very poignant trip. He was picked up from the mole. He was in North Africa at some time - he held the Africa Star. He also told me that it was the only time he drove - to get away from that "b*****d Rommel"! One posting sergeant said to him "I know where you're going - you'll be glad when you get there". There was Malta. There was a BBC documentary recently on the siege of Malta. I had no idea how bad it was. They were reduced to living on tinned herrings. I remember when Dad came home Mum got him a treat - tinned sardines! Dad was also present at the liberation of Brussels where he was taken in by a Belgian family. Dad stayed in touch with Victor and family for many years.

Dad sadly passed away in 1999. I wished now that I had asked more about his wartime experiences but I never wanted to intrude. If anyone remembers him, I would love to hear from you.

Bob Stradling



L/Cpl. Jack Blane No 3 (BR) Casualty Clearing Station RAMC

CCS lorry in the desert

This is the account my father Jack Blane wrote for the family of his war. He wrote it in 2002, at the age of eighty three:

I entered military service at Crookham Barracks, 15th September 1939. After three months’ training I had Embarkation Leave for one week at Christmas. Having embarked for France on a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve, I was sent to Number 3 Casualty Clearing Station (3 CCS) at Mondicow and remained with that unit throughout the war. It was very cold, with deep snow. I read last year, 2001, that 1940 was the coldest winter since 1815. I only had a stretcher to sleep on and two blankets, in a cold, old house with no heating. For two months I went to bed with all my clothes on, including my greatcoat and gas cape. When the “Phoney War” ended and Germany invaded, we gradually made our way to the coast. We had some dodgy times on the way, including evacuating a clearly marked ambulance train of severely burned civilians from Rotterdam, whilst under attack from German planes.

On 31st May we were ordered to leave our billet for hopeful evacuation. My sergeant gave me a big pack of medical record books, then told me to set off to Dunkirk and that on the way the others would help me. I set off into France and kept plodding along the sand. I did not see any more members of our unit but finally saw a Royal Navy man. I asked him if there was any chance of getting off. He told me to stay where I was and wait but that I could not take the pack. So I just threw it down and left it on the beach. I seemed to be alone and must have fallen asleep. When it became dark a lot of other troops assembled and a smallish boat arrived. We had to wade into the sea up to our chests. The Navy chap in charge said that when he ordered, “Stop,” we had to stop trying to get aboard or he would shoot us – and I am sure that he would have. We were all finally taken to a larger “little ship.” I thought, “Oh, Good: we should be in England by morning.” When I woke up, big shock. We were still cruising off shore and the skipper would not leave while he could see anyone on the beach. The last man to be brought aboard was in a bad way, having been shot by a machine gun. He died within sight of England. After disembarking I was put on a train and eventually arrived at Oswestry Barracks about midnight, still soaked through. I had one nightmare after this while I was billeted with nice people in Leeds, where I finally rejoined my unit all safe and sound.

From June 1940 to December 1941 I was stationed at various places in England. Kitty and I married on 9th October 1940. That Christmas was the last we had together until 1945. Our unit left Liverpool in December 1941 and we spent Christmas Day that year in Sierra Leone harbour. Later, I had four lovely days with civilian friends in Cape Town, South Africa. We then went to Palestine and to Beirut – which was a lovely place then. On our way to the 8th army I met up with my brother Bernard for four hours in Cairo. I never did know how that was arranged or by whom. I spent Christmas 1942 at Tobruk and New Year’s Eve at Bengazi. Then it was on to the last battle for the 8th Army in North Africa. After that, we went to Malta for two weeks’ rest and then it was the invasion of Sicily and into Southern Italy. Our ship came under heavy fire while we lay off Italy prior to landing.

We sailed for England from Bari on a lousy, overcrammed ship. We had half a ration of bully beef for Christmas dinner 1943. At night all the floors, the dining tables and hammocks, were full of men. In January 1944 I arrived in England and was stationed in Cambridge, hooray!! I was allowed a sleeping out pass. Kitty came to Cambridge and we had a lovely time, staying with my Aunt Alice. (Our first daughter, Jean, was born in October that year!)

On D-Day, 6th June, we sailed in convoy down the Thames. Once off Dover we could see and hear the big German guns in Calais firing across the Channel. They hit the ship directly ahead of us, setting it on fire. It was terrible to see. How lucky we were to escape unharmed. We lay off the French coast until D-Day plus two. Then we landed on Gold Beach with 30 Corps and set up our Casualty Clearing Station. We were very busy and it was very noisy from the gunfire. I slept in a ditch. The Germans shelled us one night and two Nursing Sisters were injured. The army moved us to a safer area the next day.

On we went to Brussels and then to Eindhoven. Next it was Nijmegen where the road back (our supply road) was cut off by the Germans for four days. We took casualties from the battle for Arnhem. Six operating theatres were working, three on day shift and three on night shift. I did not leave the hospital building for two weeks. After two months there we were relieved by the Canadians. Christmas Day 1944 was spent somewhere in Belgium. Then it was on to the Ardennes and the “Battle of the Bulge” to help the Americans, who suffered heavy losses. There was deep snow and it was bitterly, bitterly cold. We were back to Nijmegen for the Battle for the Rhine. Twentyfive pounder guns fired over the hospital all day. The forest flooded too and all casualties and equipment were wet through.

I had a short home leave in March, to see Kitty and meet my new daughter for the first time. Then it was back to my unit. We made our way into Germany where, after being in various places, we ended up just outside Hanover. December 1945 and back in England. I had four weeks demob leave. So Christmas 1945 I was home at last. Demobbed February 1946. There were Good Times and Bad Times – but always Good Friends.

Jack Blane, 3rd March 2002

Post Script: What my father does not include in this understated account are the horrors he experienced during “his” war. These strongly affected him to the end and when he spoke of them, which he still did only sparingly, it was with great feeling. I, and all our family, are very proud of him.

Jean Flannery



Sgt George Herrett 195th Field Ambulance

My father-in-law, George Herrett, spoke very little about the war apart from one story I remember when he was in France the lieutenant of his section was injured and to save his life he had to cut off his arm as there was no other medics or doctor where they where. I have tried to find out about his army career but even though I have his service No I have been unsuccesful. Can anyone help with info on who to contact as my grandson would like to know more about his grandad's army careeer.

Rita Herrett



L/Cpl. John Shrigley Royal Army Medical Corps

My father John Shrigley served in India in WW2. As far as I can recall he enlisted in the summer of 1943. He was in the Royal Army Medical Corps and based in Johore State hospital. At one point he was sent to convalesce in Darjeeling following an operation to replace a fractured skull with a metal plate. I think that they had to evacuate the patients from the Hospital because the Japanese were advancing on them. He was also at some point in Rangoon. He came home in either 1946 or 1947 on the Troopship Empress of Australia, which docked in Liverpool. I would love to obtain details as to his Army Number, Service Record, etc, but am not sure how to go about it.

Joan Harrison



Mjr. Edmund Boyce Rowe Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Edmund Boyce Rowe, Major RAMC servied in India and Burma from 1941 to 46/7. He evacuated Southampton hospital having married my mother in the morning on the day that WW2 broke out. Sometime later he was sent to Catterick, issued tropical kit sent on to Liverpool sailed via the Cape of Good Hope before being told they were bound for India. He spent time in Calcutta overseeing the body count of victims of cholera daily numbering tens of thousands, he also served in Burma. He died in 1991, any information please?

Karen



Andrew Sinclair "Sinky" Brodie Royal Medical Corps

Andrew Sinclair Brodie in Burma

Somewhere in SEAC Andrew Sinclair Brody

My granddad Andrew Brodie served in Burma. I think he was a medic. He died when I was 4. Good looking gent, wish I knew him. RIP.

Dale Johnston



Pte. Dennis Brown Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandfather Dennis Brown was originally trained as a sniper but due to a small problem with his one eye was transferred to be trained with the R.A.M.C. He spent some time at Seacroft Hospital, Leeds and also some time at a training camp at Glenridding, Ullswater.

He started his journey in 1943 when he sailed out from Southampton and eventually sailed on both the SS Karoa and the HMS Ranchi. He sailed to Durban were he watched Ms Salmon sing to the troops as they departed their ships. He safely went round the Cape of Good Hope. He also watched the captain of his ship check on a vessel he'd wrecked previously on one of the Nicobar islands. He spent a short time in Calcutta were he visited the Lighthouse cinema and Phirpoes restaurant before being transported out into the jungle to a small BMH hospital at Panitola, were he contracted malaria several times whilst he served there. I know he ended up going with a small group of other men to Hiroshima before he came home in 1947. Burma Star. If you know anything more about my grandfather please contact me as I'd love to hear from you.

Catherine Smith



Pte. Cecil "Pat" Pattison Royal Army Medical Corps

Cecil Pattison

My father Cecil Pattison volunteered in September 1939 into the Medical Corps. He served in the BEF and went through Dunkirk. Later he was posted to North Africa, where he was in the Royal Army Dental Corps. In North Africa he contracted tuberculosis and was invalided out in May 1946 to South Africa to recover. He died in 1952 of pneumonia when I was almost two. I would love to know more about his service in North Africa.

Chris Pattison



Sgt. Basil Edgar Stroud Royal Medical Corps

Our father, Basil Stroud, was in the Royal Medical Corps, during WW2. He was early on stationed in Bristol and survived a bomb landing on the Hospital that he was guarding there. A piece of shrapnel hit his head, but this helmet saved his life.

He was then sent to India, via a very long boat journey. He ended up stationed in Poona, with occasional sorties to the Burmese jungle to drop blood plasma from the planes, for the Allies.While in Poona, he was made a Sergeant; he played hockey and was the regiment's drummer in the camp band. If anyone remembers him, the Stroud family would love to hear from you.

Jenny Stroud



Richard George Tossell Royal Army Medical Corps

Richard George Tossell born 1911 Barnstaple, North Devon. Occupation pre-war was as a Double Decker Bus Driver on the Barnstaple to Ilfracombe route. He Joined up in 1940 and served with the R.A.M.C, R.A.S.C. as an Ambulance Driver in Egypt and after POW stint was a Tank Transport Driver to the front lines in Germany. He was held as a POW from April of 1941 - April 1943 P.G.78 Sulmona Italy after being taken prisoner during the The Western Desert Campaign, Operation Compass and German General Erwin Rommel's Africa Corp's first offensive Operation Sonnenblume April 1941 He was transported to Italy by boat crammed in the lower deck on mattresses under RAF bombing.

While in captivity Dick took advantage of other soldiers sharing their expertise, teaching classes. He especially enjoyed the classes by electricians and used those skills rewiring his home after the war. He took every advantage he could to learn and read books. He always spoke very highly of the International Red Cross and the packages sent and swears that's what kept him alive. Occasionally a name would be called, the man, never to be seen again. They didn't know the fate of those being called, whether they were beaten, tortured, executed or released.

Early in April 1943 after two years as a prisoner,the POW's were told they would be going home the following week during a prisoner exchange with Italian prisoners. On 13/14th Apr 1943 during transit home POW trains hid under a tunnel while 211 RAF planes bombed for 8 hrs. The harbor of La Spezia, Italy, especially the naval base with three battleships in port. Four Lancaster bombers shot down. The battleships were unharmed. When the POW's emerged the mountainside seemed to be ablaze with incendiaries and a big tanker was ‘going up in smoke’. While they waited in the tunnel the railway behind them was blown up. They continued by train through Milan and Southern France arriving Lisbon 18 Apr 1943. Dick was repatriated via Lisbon on H.M.H.S. Newfoundland Hospital Ship and arrived Avonmouth, England, on Good Friday 23 April 1943, when they were allowed to telegraph home. Dick arrived home in Woolacombe to his wife and two daughters May 4th 1943. An article "Grand to be back" appeared in the North Devon Journal Herald on the 6th of May 1943. Not long afterwards he was called back up as drivers with his skills were needed to drive tank transports to the front lines in Germany.

He returned to Double Decker bus driving after the war and lived in Ilfracombe until his retirement. Dick died 7 Dec 2003 at the age of 93 proud of his service for his country.

Mary Tossell



Capt. John Edward Wooding MID Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Captain John Edward Wooding, was captured near Boulogne on 24th May 1940 from No. 6 Ambulance Train BEF France (R.A.M.C.). My mother received a telegram on 8th August 1940 notifying her that he was now a prisoner of war at Oflag 1VA Germany. He was Mentioned in Dispatches and the citation read:

In addition to carrying out his duties as a medical officer whilst a prisoner in Germany, he did valuable work in organising secret communications with the War Office. Three colleagues have highly commended his activities in this connection.

I do have a photograph of the officers at the camp which was taken by the Red Cross and sent to my mother during the war. I also have the alarm clock supplied to him by the Red Cross whilst a prisoner. One of his fellow medical officer prisoners was William Henderson who subsequently became a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Leeds Royal Infirmary after the war and became my godfather.

Margaret Chapman



Pte. Leslie Arthur Smith Royal Army Service Corps

My father Leslie Smith was a driver in the RASC. I understand he drove ammunition trucks, but also was put into the RAMC as a Ambulance driver, with the 14th Field Ambulance. I know he was in Africa, Sicily & Italy, he would never talk about the war, and I would like to know more of what happened during his time out there. I am his last surviving daughter, and I am coming up for 80 yrs, so if there is anyone who can give me any information or even photos, I would be more than grateful. Thank you in anticipation

Lilian Knightley



Cecil Charles Fogell 145 Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps  

My Grandfather, Cecil Charles Fogell, was in the 145 Field Ambulance (R.A.M.C) and was captured at Dunkirk, on the 28th May. He was taken to Stalag VIII B Lamsdorf. We have his German POW identification card which shows he entered the camp on 14.06.40. He was prisoner number 12440. He was then transferred to Stalag VIII D on the 1.9.41. It then seems he was transferred to Stalag IX-C between 26.9.41 to 1.12.43. He then was moved again in April 1943 to Stalag XXID. If anyone knew him during this time, we would welcome any memories.

John Smithson



Charles Donald Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Charles Donald RAMC, was a medical officer at Lamsdorf Stalag VIIIB - during his time there he documented outbreaks of louse borne typhus fever - which was the subject of his MD thesis. Whilst a POW he was able to receive the British Medical Journal and submit articles to the BMJ (September 19 1942). He suffered from typhus before being repatriated in 1943. Following the war he became a General Practitioner at Bamber Bridge in Lancashire.

Munro Donald



S/Sgt. Weeks Royal Army Medical Corps

My father was captured when Crete fell and was in Stalag VIIIB. He was a S/Sgt in the RAMC. He was repatriated in late 43/early 44 with an exchange of prisoners. I would like to find any others and the reason father was chosen. Perhaps because he was in the RAMC accompanying the sick?

John Weeks



Gould 189th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandfather was a prisoner at Stalag 8b, I have just received his diary that covers some of his time there, also 3 group photos that he posted home whilst there. From a piece of paper in his diary I am assuming he was a member of the 189th Fd Amb RAMC, and I would be really grateful if anyone could give me any information on this.

Also one of the photos has the following names and numbers on the back, does it ring any bells for someone, I would be happy to send a copy of the pictures to anyone who may be related to Harold Geo Tyler 22271 of Hereford or Charles E Scovell 22153 of Southampton

Y Gould



Ray Walker Royal Army Medical Corps

5th February 1945

At the time of writing this, I am listening to Artillery fire and bombing near this camp known as Stalag 344. About five thousand of us are awaiting our release by Russian troops. These are memories of my captivity. On May 29th 1940, we were in position near a river "somewhere north of Ypres". After a day of excitement and peril, beginning at approximately 7.00 a.m. with our billet, a barn, being set on fire by Jerry, I was captured. On our way back to German H.Q. we picked up three of our chaps who were wounded, and left then at a German R.A.P. After that, we who were fit marched back under guard to a house and stayed the night in the garden. It was cold and we were soon wet through with dew. Next day we moved on and at night reached Rosalere having covered about 45 kilometres. Our billet was a convent school. During the night the RAF bombed the town but missed us. From there we moved on another 38 kilos to a small place I do not know by name. Four days we stayed there in a small school playground. My 25th birthday was spent in this place. On June 4th we moved on another 41 kilos to Coudenarde. After being paraded round the town we were put in an old Belgian army barracks where we stopped for 3 days, most of the time queued up for food. There were thousands of British and French mixed, up. We were to curse the French fluently from then on. Whenever we moved from then on, the French were put in front. They carried so much kit - food and clothing - that they could not keep up with the British who had nothing. We saw these !*! sitting by the roadside eating while we starved and marched on. As the march progressed, the French straggled out more and more, so at each fresh start - mostly daily occurrences they were given longer starts on the British.

On June 7th, we left Coudenarde and marched 35 kilos to Edingem, where we arrived at 11 p.m. On the road jerry guards stopped the British for over two hours while the French straggled on ahead. Then, in threes we were told to march on. One of the Germans said "Sing Tommy", so we sang "Tipperary" and others of the old favourites. To show we weren't too down hearted we sang "Hang out our Washing on the Siegfried Line"; as we came to the field where we were to spend the next couple of days. The Germans here didn't see eye to eye with us and bashed into us with big sticks yelling and raving. Because we couldn't understand then, they got real mad. June 8th; word came out to us that we could write a letter from here - only a short one. This I believe got home. In a full view of a road, three of us had a rough strip-down wash in a pint and a half of water. It felt good.

Sunday June 9th: We left this spot and hiked onward. 40 Kilos we went that day to a place I haven't the name of. Somewhere I slipped up as I usually wrote the names and distances as a destination became apparent en route. At this place we were put into an old mill of some kind. Textile weaving I believe. In the yard we crowded, and at the end nearest the building were three field cookers, with Belgian Red Cross workers, issuing soup, not much, but it was good to our hungry bellies. We filed through and then on to the building to "grab" ourselves a spot on which to sleep. As we left here on June 10th, I wrote down what I thought was the name of the town from a railway signal box. Seeing it several times afterwards on other boxes I knew I was wrong. It may have meant north, South, East or West but it wasn't the name of town. 32 Kilos onward - not 'half-a-league' - we stopped at a town named WAVRE. On the way we passed through HAL and WATERLOO. Our route was skirting us round BRUSSELS. All this time we were living on what food we could get here and there from people in villages and towns we passed through. The Germans seemed to have no organisation to deal with P.O.W. As my fellow Stretcher-Bearer and myself [sic] were keeping with our Sgt. Major, who by this time was feeling "groggy", we didn't get much food. Those "froggies" in front didn't leave much for our boys either. The next place - Tienen, carried us towards Germany another 43 Kilos. At this place we all got some soup and rice as we went into field. It was midnight before I was "served'. This was June 11th. On the 12th we had the shortest march of the lot - 18 Kilos to St.Trudien. As we entered this place, people lined the streets to see us. Not to cheer but to sympathise - they were Belgians. We did manage to get a few lumps of sugar, two small bars of chocolate and a macaroon, which we shared. From here we went to Tongeren, 21 Kilos 'up the road'. All the places we passed showed signs of bombing or shelling. Some of the big towns were severely damaged.

June 14th, we left 'Tongeren and soon after crossed the Dutch border. About 2.00 p.m. we reached our camp on the outskirts of Maastricht, after a 30 Kilo march. 6.00 p.m. a 2/Lt came over and said all Medical Corps and S.B's were to keep separate, if the German doctor had time to see our pay books and pass us; there was a chance of us going home from there. Next morning we moved out with the rest and got 1/5 of a loaf and a piece of raw pork fat. Holland- the part we saw - greatly impressed us a clean, nice place after what we had seen in Belgium. On the 15th we marched our last 30 Kilos. Crossing through Heerlen, the Dutch Red Cross had tables in the street and as we went past, we got something from them. I got a small packet of sweets a slice of bread and a small bun. We were all grateful. The end of that march was a railway siding 2 Kilos in Germany at a small place named Palensberg. We knew we were in Germany alright, as every house was hung with a Swastika flag. On this siding, there were some German nurses who treated blistered feet and dressed one or two minor wounds. A German officer of some sort wanted the brass band harp badge I wore on my tunic sleeve. When it was explained - not truthfully I am afraid - that it was a souvenir from my dead comrade, he seemed pretty decent and told me to keep it, so I promptly took it down and put it away in an inside pocket. Out of sight out of mind.

Later we were put 50 in a cattle truck and taken away. All night we travelled and arrived next day at a place like a level crossing. From this point we marched on a very rough track about 3 miles to a camp, only British were on this party, as the French were separated at Palensberg - (loud cheers under breath). This camp proved to be only a transit camp, so, arriving on June 16th we left on the 19th. Three days on a train brought us to the place where this is being written - Lamsdorf in Upper Silesia. (Stalag VIII B) Friday June 21st was that fateful day. Here we were registered and given a German field card to send home the "glad" news, on this, the phrase "I am lightly wounded" did not get crossed out and caused mother a lot of unnecessary worry.

Now started a "grand" time for us. We were fed on very watery soup, with 3 or 4 potatoes separate, for dinner. About 5.00 p.m. we got 1/5 of a loaf of bread about 10 ozs - with a very, very small portion of margarine and jam. After this we had to do from 8.30 to 10.00 a.m. and 5.00 6.00 p.m. Physical Training. When not on this we were either hunting LICE or resting in any place we could outside. Every time you stood up, you suffered from a "black-out' and then "spots before the eyes". This state of affairs, together with dysentery lasted for a long time. That winter was very severe and we had no warm clothing, no great coats and only two blankets. They were black days. A weekly paper, in English was issued to us, telling us the news - German version. They had done everything to us. Sunk our Navy three times over and practically sunk England. Sane chaps took it to heart and got real down hearted. We started a choir and sang four-part harmony. One chap produced a Saxophone he had carried from France. With this going, we got an hours singing at night during the good weather, instead of P.T.. It was impossible to make anyone realise what really happened on that March and in the following years of captivity. Many times the Germans tried to break our spirits. In some individual cases they succeeded, but on the whole, they failed.

By Christmas 1940, with one or two piano accordions and several mouth organs, we raised an Orchestra and produced "Snow White and the Seven 'Twerps", There is no need to state where this was taken from. That Christmas seems to have been lucky as on December 24th we received our first Red Cross Food Parcel and on the 27th I had my first letter from England. It was from my mate and his wife. Mother’s first letter came about three weeks later.

I was recognised as a person protected by the Geneva Convention and on April 2nd, 1941 went to another camp, (Stalag XX1 A), at Schildberg, which was 18 Kilos over the Polish border, passing through Oppeen and Kreuzberg on the way. This camp seemed like heaven after the one we had left. Here the doctor would only accept R.A.M.C. men, as the job we went to take on was working in hospitals. So when the camp had a 'clear out' on April 10th, ten of our party of twenty six moved on. About 200 men were in this party, which went on to Woolstien (Stalag XXI C/H). This was a French camp and we seemed unwanted guests. We stayed here for eight days and the "protected" men had a hard job to keep out of going on the pleas-ant job of canal digging. This we managed at the last minute without the aid of the R.S.M. in charge. 120 men left us on the 17th and we other 80 or so, moved next day to Sudhof, (Stalag XXI C/Z later XXI E), which is 3 Kilos out-side Gratz. This had been a French camp but was being taken over by British P.O.W. Towards the end of May we had a lot of snow and bitterly cold weather. About this time the remaining French left us. The Medical Orderlies were good chaps and so were the two doctors and the dentist. Us chaps, who were taking over the hospital, got up a farewell party, which consisted of a feed and afterwards some singing. This was broken up by a German Corporal assisted by two guards with rifles and fixed bayonets. When he first came in - without guards - we took no notice but carried on singing. The second time he didn't argue. Late next day, we learned that the senior French doctor had been fined 50 Riechmarks £3-6-8 for some alleged offence. We knew it was in connection with our party, so we raised the money to repay him. He declined the money and told us it was well worth that amount for so enjoyable an evening, so everyone was satisfied and happy. In the meantime a Saxophone, Clarinet, Trumpet, String Bass, Trombone and Bass Drum had come to light. A piano was in a small concert hall, so our "Orchestra" was started. The Saxophonist and Clarinet player were Army Bandsmen and quite good. Our Trumpet player was fairly good, too, but the chap who took the Trombone Well! X?. Later, this was taken over by a chap who did know a little about it. The pianist played by ear and not music. For a Side Drum - the small one - we had a 2Olb jam tin turned upside down with a bunch of keys jangling on the bottom. The String Bass player was myself - least said soonest forgotten.

On June 22nd we heard Russia hail come in on our side. That morning I was told to report to the Commandants Office. Wondering what was wrong, I went. A new addition had arrived. An 80 Bass Accordion. He wanted to know if this was a good instrument and I played what I could remember of "Black Eyes" for him as a test. From then on I took the Accordion - not that I was good and another chap took the Bass. The Commandant was proud of the band, and thereafter, when anyone came to the camp, we were sent for post haste to play something. He got us music in the form of German dance arrangements.

In May, just before the French left, we put on our first Variety show and called it "Spring is in the Air" No.1, that afternoon it snowed. Soon after the French left two British Medical Officers arrived. We spent a' good summer in Sudhof camp. October brought rumours of our camp becoming Russian and the British were leaving. Hospital staff and doctors stopping. We were to stay until February 1942. However, they changed that and we left on November 2nd 1941 to return to Schildberg. I went practically straight into the Orchestra there, on a Baritone, playing bass parts. Soon after the New Year of 1942, a party of Repats - back from Rouen - joined our Stalag and I met many chaps I knew.

Whilst at Gratz, I had written for confirmation of my being a Stretcher Bearer protected under the Geneva Convention. In February the answer came that Records Office knew nothing of my being a S.B. Of course, I was promptly crossed off the rolls by the Germans. That made me elligible for work at anything, anywhere. Being in the orchestra saved me. I got a small job in the camp. A three valved Euphonium came soon after this, so I took that over in place of the Baritone. The orchestra had grown from 18 to 40 strong and it gave many concerts, which were greatly appreciated. Just before Christmas, we bought a String Bass and knowing something about it, I took that on. It was difficult at first, as I had only done dance work with the String Bass, but with plenty of practice, I made myself fairly good.

In March 1943, Stalag XXI A closed down. The fit men went on three working parties. My party was last to leave and went to Krotoschin and became No.14 attached to Stalag XXI D. This was the nearest I ever got to breaking my hope that I would never have to work for Germany. We went to Krotoschin on Monday 29th March 1943 and we were given a week to 'settle down'. On Thursday we were taken out to "view the job". It was "miles from anywhere". No house or person in sight. In places it was ankle deep with water - very marshy. The contractor and surveyor were rank jews. The former handed out shovels saying,' "Ein uhr schnell arbeit" meaning "One hours quick work". He got it - I don't think. Then a real heavy snow storm came on. What a day! April 1st. Friday 2nd was spent in thinking up ways of getting off the party and back to main camp. Mine came on Saturday the 3rd, in the form of a recognition paper, making me again a protected person. I stopped on the job as medical orderly and went out each day with the workers. My main job, other than first aid, was heating up the 9 a.m. drinks, which chaps took out in beer bottles.

In September thirteen unrecognised medicals were called in to join the Repats. For some reason they missed it but went in May 1944. My chum went on that. We had many disputes with the Germans over the amount of work that should be done. More often than not we got our own way. For three days we stayed out from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. They said we had to do 27 trains of earth, or stop there until we had. The lads did 12, which was 3 less than we had done before. They cut it to 18 - we still "kicked", 15 was our number. In the end, the guards "gave" us 1 and the foreman gave us 2 and we did our 15. Everyone was satisfied. This party was billeted beyond a German barracks, of which there were three in the town. On May 30th 1944 we moved into Stalag XXI D Posen. The camp there was an old fort, named Foert Rauch. The day before this the RAF had bombed Posen and there was plenty of damage to be seen. Within a week I got a job in the Medical Inspection Room doing dressings etc. Whilst in this camp I managed to do quite a bit of swimming.

Posen broke up on August 17th and we went to Tescgen (Stalag VIII B), but out of 890, they could only take 500, so, with the remainder, I travelled on and got back to Lamsdorf, (now STALAG 344) on August 20th 1944. This camp seemed to have got worse during my absence. Several days we saw our bombers go over to bomb Oppeln and Blechammer. They always used our camp as a turning point.

On Monday, 22nd January 1945 the evacuation of this camp began. My block was due to go on the 23rd. We did actually line up on the road, but the guards marched off without us. This was now February 10th, and we are hourly expecting Russian troops to arrive. For days we have listened to the gun fire, shelling and bombing, which is moving past us in the North West. We get the news twice a day from a set, somewhere in the camp. Now, like all the others I say "Come on Joe"! This is 4 years and 9 months after my capture. I hope to celebrate the fifth anniversary in England, if not at home.

Sunday 11th February 1945 Today things are quiet. There have been several "strafing" attacks on the aero-drome close by, by Russian fighters. Germans have declared this area to be in a state of siege.

Monday 12th February 1945 Early this morning, 8.00 a.m. a lone Russian bomber came over and bombed the aerodrome. The A. A. send plenty of stuff up, but did not seem to hit any planes. German fighters seem to be elsewhere when 'Joe's boys' came over. Fairly heavy artillery fire in W. & N.W.

Tuesday 13th February 1945 Bad weather. Slight snow. Not much sound of activity.

Wednesday 14th February 1945 Early this morning - approximately 4.30 a.m. Heavy artillery from N.W. and very close. Most probably German artillery shelling Russian bridge head over the River Oder. No further activity. Plenty of rumours regarding a move. Can't see where Germans can move us, as we are virtually surrounded. Thursday 15th February 1945

More heavy shelling heard again. Air attacks also continue on air-field, but no German aircraft to be seen.

Friday 16 February 1945 Early morning, a Russian tank came up to the camp perimeter and the commander spoke English. He said the Russians would rescue us in the next few days.

17th February 1945 Sounds of fighting now seem to be moving in a direction indicating the Germans are retreating.

Sunday 18th February 1945 We are expecting the Russian forces at any time now.

Completed From Memory 28/5/81: On 19th February 1945, German guards suddenly appeared in the camp and said we had one hour to pack our things to move. Everyone was astounded that they planned to move us. There was only a single line railway in the area so we thought it was madness to use this. However, we were taken to the local station, and put 53 to a cattle truck. Where we were off to no-one knew. Twelve days we spent on this journey. During this time we saw a great number of trains filled with German civilians just trying to get away from the fighting. On many occasions we were stopped for air-raids and had to sweat it out hoping that we weren't attacked. The guards always fled to a safe distance. Our luck held. . A train load of P.O.W. following us was shot up, having some killed and wounded. Anything on the railways was a fair target for the Allied Air Forces. Our "piece de resistance" while on the journey was going to bed. Starting at one end of the truck, one chap would lie down and wrap his blankets round him, then another chap would do the same, only in a head to toe position, number 3 would follow the same way as the first chap and number 4 the same as number 2 and so on. The whole 53 managed to fit in in this manner. Getting up was in the reverse order.

On 3rd March 1945 we arrived at a small place called Hammelburg. After we left the train, there was a hard march over a steep hill to a camp. After our lack of exercise many rests had to be made before we got to the camp. Hammelburg is not far from Sweinfurt. The air-raid warnings were almost continuous here.

It was whilst in this camp that one 'day we were startled to hear a commotion from a nearby officers POW camp. Later, some new American POW's were brought in and we learned that General George Patton had sent tanks some 50 miles forward, to rescue his son-in-law from the Oflag. The tanks had run short of petrol and so the petrol was siphoned from half of them to allow the others to escape. It was during our stay at this camp that the "great escape" took place. This came about in the following manner. One day word got round the camp that the Germans were going to take the British prisoners out, to march on the roads. This was a ploy to stop the Allies Air Forces from strafing the retreating columns using the roads.

Early the next morning, before the "round-up" was due, holes appeared in the barbed wire fences, and streams of men could be seen heading for nearby woods, carrying all their possessions in bundles. I and two others thought we had a good hide-out - in an empty sentry post on the perimeter of the camp. After about two hours, we had an awful fright when we saw a German N.C.O coming towards our hiding place. This is it, we thought. Fortunately - his attention was caught by one of the large holes, and he went through this, back into the camp. Another attempt was made later, and on this occasion, I managed to evade the guards by being hidden by Italian prisoners in their hut. When the guards came, all lights (home-made wicks in grease) were blown out and everyone pro-tested so hard that there were no British in the hut, that the guards were convinced and left.

The camp was eventually taken over by the U.S. forces on 11th April 1945. We were flown home on 14th April.

Ray Walker



Pte. Frederick Stevens 12th General Hospital Royal Medical Army Corps

My Granddad, Frederick Stevens now 92 years old can clearly remember his time as a Prisoner of War. Having read some of the accounts on here, I hope that some people might be interested to see the similarities between his memories of Stalag IV-B with those of their relatives. He certainly recognised some of the stories recounted on this site.

Frederick Stevens was 22 years old when he was captured in October 1943 on the Island of Kos. He says that he was cooking breakfast one day with fellow members of his regiment when they saw German paratroopers dropping from the sky. They were soon captured and transported to Athens before continuing on to Germany in a cattle wagon. He remembers that it was around 35 men to each wagon and the journey lasted for a gruelling 6 days. Eventually they reached the transit camp Stalag VII-A in Moosburg. He was held there for several days before being moved on to Stalag IV-B. It was here that he was to see out the rest of the war.

After 70 years, Fred can recall several incidences, all of a dramatic nature, from during his time in the camp: He says that on one particular day, Luftwaffe planes were flying over the camp. RAF personnel within the camp encouraged the pilots to fly lower. They waved their hands as a gesture for the planes to descend; it was a show of bravado to test the pilots. The planes responded to the challenge and plummeted but the propellers of one plane caught several of the RAF men who had been waving to the planes and Fred remembers that at least 3 of them were killed. That evening, the Luftwaffe commander came to the camp to apologise, and informed the POWs that the pilots involved in the incident had been relieved of their duties and would be dispensed into the army.

The camp contained many Russian soldiers. Russia had not signed the Geneva Convention so they could not receive the extra sustenance that the other allied soldiers received through the Red Cross parcels. They even resorted to making their own sort of Ersatz coffee from Pine tree bark. Fred remembers that many prisoners of other nationalities would group together and donate whatever they could spare to the Russians. He says it wasn’t a lot, because both Russian and other inmates were always hungry.

The prisoners were subject to curfews. After a certain time they would all have to retreat to the cramped huts where they would sleep on 3-storey beds. A very effective morale boost in such restrictive circumstances was the fact that some prisoners had managed to procure radios, which had to kept secret of course, through which they could keep up to date with the war's progress.

On one occasion he broke his curfew, just stepping outside the hut to get some air. He spotted a fellow Dutch prisoner across the camp that evidently felt the same about the cramped conditions in the huts. Fred could see that the inmate was being harassed to return in to the hut. A guard was pushing him and knocked him in the back of the head with the butt of his rifle. The Dutch prisoner turned and struck the guard and another nearby guard witnessed this and shot the Dutchman dead. Naturally, after seeing this shocking act he made a hasty retreat into the hut and didn’t break his curfew again.

On another occasion, during a circuit of the camp, an allied aircraft flew low over their heads. It was shooting at a railway line just outside the premises of the camp and destroyed a goods-train that was being held there. Fred instinctively threw himself to the ground, and has said he had never been more in fear for his life than that moment – quite ironic that his scariest moment was the fault of an Allied aircraft!

One evening in February 1945 a Pathfinder plane, (target marking squadrons in RAF Bomber Command that located and marked targets with flares, which a main bomber force could aim at), dropped a flare over the camp. Granddad said the sky lit up and in a panic, fearing that the camp was about to be bombed, he jumped from his 3rd story bed and landed on his knee, which has caused him problems to this day. The bombers must have somehow realised that it was a not the intended target because no bombs were dropped. Instead, the planes were heading further east, as part of what history would remember as the cataclysmic bombing raids on Dresden. The morning after the raid, the POWs who had been members of the Royal Army Medical Core (which included Fred) were asked by the guards to go down to Dresden and help with injured victims of the devastation. However, the Infantry Regiment Sergeant refused to go and wouldn’t allow the others to leave the camp for their own safety; he feared that the survivors would lynch them.

Fred also remembers a few moments of comic relief. For example on one occasion an American pilot, bailing out of his stricken plane, landed quite conveniently right in the centre of the camp! He also remembers the concerts, performed by the inmates. He remembers these being very popular, particularly amongst the Americans. During one ‘season’, the camp commandant was invited to open the Theatre for the first performance. However, whilst he was inside the theatre, his driver was distracted with the offer of free cigarettes by the prisoners and a group of RAF prisoners stole the vehicles tools. The theatre was subsequently shut (temporarily)!

Eventually, the day arrived when the camp was liberated. Fred recalls that the Americans first liberated the camp until the Russians arrived, at which point they returned to their lines. The Russians transported the now ex-POWs to another camp further east. However he decided enough was enough of being told where to go and what to do, so he ‘escaped’, along with several others who had been in the camp and they travelled westward to the River Elbe, beyond which the Americans were in authority and there was a better chance of being sent home sooner. He travelled on foot and on his way he was welcomed into the home of an old German farmer to take food and rest.

He reached the US lines and was eventually transported to northern France. It was from here he was finally brought back to the UK on a Lancaster Bomber. He says he can remember looking out to see the White Cliffs of Dover greet his return. Some time afterwards, he discovered that his fellow POWs who had remained with the Russians had waited another 6 weeks to be transported home.

Rebecca Stevens



Pte. Lancelot Jude Mathew 14th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

My Father was born in Calcutta India 1920. Lancelot Jude Mathew He joined the British Indian Army in 1939. I do not have much information about his service. I have a photo of my father in a Group it has writing on the back - 28.3.1944 Italy 1944. Taken a few days before I get Posted from unit No 12 India Ambulance and Complete staff of Indian & British Personell (in workshop at B___ for Repairs.) Group Photo is in my possession. Dated He was also in Cortina, Italy at the end of the war. I believe he went to Burma but I don't have anything to support that belief. At the end of the war 1945 He was associated with 14th Field Ambulance and is photographed in Austria with other personel I have his discharge papers that were stamped in Aldersot UK 1946 showing his Service Number.

Rhonda Mathew



Sydney James "Dick" Cursons Royal Army Medical Corps

My London born husband's father Sydney James (Dick) Cursons was in the RAMC and was wounded at the landing at Dunkirk. He lost his left arm on that day when a shell burst nearby on the beach. We know nothing more of his war service, and would be grateful if anyone is able to help us with information please.

Kerry Cursons



Pte. Colin Smyth Royal Army Medical Corps

My father Colin Smyth was in the Medical Corps but was also a paratrooper. He had been at Dunkirk, North Africa and made operational drops in Sicily and then at Arnhem where he was wounded. He spent the rest of the war first in hospital in Germany and then at Stalag 11b Fallingbstel. My father died in 1997, aged 78.

I would be interested to hear from anyone whose links to Arnhem are similar.

Richard Smyth



Sgt. Patrick Fitch 149 Field Ambulance (d.4th Sep 1944)

Patrick Finch served with 149 Field Ambulance, RAMC and was killed in action on the 4th September 1944, aged 29. He is buried in Annoeullin Communal Cemetery and German Extension in France. Patrick was the son of John and Mary Fitch and the husband of Agnes P. Fitch, of Glasgow.

S Flynn



Lt. Herbert Starling Manning Jacob 53rd Welsh Div

My father Herbert Jacob served with the 53rd Welsh Div at some stage. He was in Belgium and Wuppertal, and at Bergen Belsen. Does anyone remember him?

Christine Coe



Pte. Henry "Snowy" Collinson HMHS St David Royal Army Medical Corps (d.24th Jan 1944)

The only thing about my father's service record which is known to me, is that he died when the St David was sunk at Anzio. His name was Henry Collinson

My Uncle Billy was also on board. As he went up to put a patient into the lifeboat, he met my father going below to evacuate another patient. Just then the ship received a direct hit, she sank very quickly. Uncle Billy survived, my father did not. I believe my father was a member of the surgical team. Anzio is only mentioned briefly in war stories, being overshadowed by the events at Monte Casino. So really any details of the St Davids is not know.

Christine Jee



Pte. George Atkinson Royal Army Medical Corps

In the months before the war, my father, George Atkinson was employed at Millom Iron works in Westmoreland, as a labourer, casting gun barrels for RN ships. Ironically, he was laid off because of a lack of orders. On the dole, he volunteered for the Army. This was on family advice; as relatives who had left it too late in WW1 had been conscripted into the infantry and ended up on the front line. As he had been educated at grammar school for one year after the age of 13, he had the extra literacy and numeracy skills, when he took his recruiting tests, to become a Nursing Orderly in the RAMC. This, he thought, would get him a cushy number. Unfortunately, he was posted to a Field Ambulance Unit serving on the front line throughout the war. He served in the Middle-East, Far-East and Italy; seeing active service at El-Alamein, in Burma and Monte Casino.

As a regular he was not de-mobbed in 1945,but went on to work in a British military hospital in Belgium until 1947. When he left the Army he worked for Glaxo making antibiotics until his retirement in 1980- a medical advance he witnessed first hand in the middle-east in 1941-42. My father died in 1985 aged 66. I know a great deal about his service - even though he hardly ever spoke of it to the rest of the family - because I was determined to join the Army myself as a boy soldier. He made it his business to tell me about his experiences and leave me without any doubt about life in the Army. I know he was trying, in his way, to put me off. Nevertheless I joined the Royal Artillery.

George Atkinson



Douglas Arthur Collings Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Douglas Arthur Collings, served in North Africa and Italy with the Ambulance Corps. I am looking for any information.

Robert A.D Collings



Pte. Maurice Nolan Royal Army Medical Corps

My uncle, Maurice Nolan, born 1913 Limerick, Ireland, served as a medic in France during World War 2. Maurice survived but had shell shock. I am looking for information on his war record

Ann Keating



Mjr. Henry Holzner MC. Royal Army Medical Corps

My mother, Joyce Ffoulkes Parry, whose posthumous war time journal of a QA sister in the Middle and Far East has just been published, knew Major Henry Holzner MC RAMC. I am very keen to trace any relatives of his. The book is Joyce's War

Rhiannon Evans



Arthur Wong Royal Army Medical Corps

Arthur Wong was stationed in Johor. He was a friend of my father's, and Arthur wrote to us in England when we were young. He signed his name as Wong Arthur.

I would love to know what happened to him.

Joan Harrison



Pte. William Ruddy Royal Army Medical Corps

I know my father William Ruddy joined the army in August 1936 in Bradford & served for some time in India before becoming a PoW in Singapore. My father died in 1957 when I was only 2 years old so I know very little about him. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

John Ruddy



Pte. William Crawford 14th Light Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

To Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of VE Day, and honor those that fell. I thought I would share this with you, about a certain 13 men. This is photo of my Grandad, William Crawford's war diary written in 1942 as they where retreating from the Germans in the North Africa Campaign being pushed East towards the Suez Canal near El Alamein. He was part of the 7th Armoured Division the 'Desert Rats'.

Black Friday 29th May 1942: 'We are still on the move, buried Jerry prisoner. 4.30pm Dived bombed and machine gunned by Stukhas, 13 of our lads killed, 10 wounded, burying the bodies, stayed behind with MDS (medical dressing station) Surrender to Jerry if necessary, 3.30am buried Private Thomas, can't evacuate wounded, going to be surrounded'

Saturday 30th: '6.30 Trying to make our way out, carrying wounded, arrived on coast above Tobruk, lost 2 ambulances, 2 lorries, got first nights sleep for 4 nights, battle still raging'.

Sunday 31st: 'Had parade to lay and find particulars of missing and killed. 3.30 went to sea for bathing not been able to wash for days. 8.30 Had memorial service.

The names of the 13, are listed on the 2nd photo of the diary entry. Killed:

  • Pte. Masefield
  • Pte. Rodd
  • Pte. Hunt
  • Pte. Cook
  • Pte. Thomas
  • Pte. Haveridge
  • Pte. Lyons
  • Pte. Stringer
  • Drv. Payne
  • Drv. Taylor
  • & others

    Wounded:

  • Cpl. Byers
  • Cpl Hughes
  • Cpl Easton
  • Pte. Hughes
  • Pte Cornell
  • Pte ???
  • Pte. Heneby
  • Pte. Morris
  • Sgt. Harnom
  • & others
RIP.

Neil Crawford



Sgt. Andrew Hall Smith 13th Field Hygene Section Royal Army Medical Corps

On 12th of Jun 1940 Sgt Andrew Hall Smith was at St Valerie and was taken POW, (POW No. 18007). He arrived at Stalag XXA, Thorn, Germany on 10th of July 1940. He was sent to Stalag XXB Marienburg on 9th of October 1941 and back to Stalag XXA on 13th of October 1943. He was repatriated on 13th of October 1944

James Smith



RSM. Albert Edward Townsend Royal Army Medical Corps

RSM. A.E.Townsend was captured near Dunkirk. He was marched to Stalag 10A then to Stalag 8B. He was repatriated in 1944.

Alan



Pte. John Richard Ashdown Royal Army Medical Corps (d.7th Aug 1944)

Uncle Jack Ashdown served with the RAMC during WW2. The ship he was on was sunk and he is remembered at Bayeux, France.

Patricia Shepherd



Pte. Herbert Walmsley 23rd Light Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

My father Herbert Walmsley served in UK at Wolverley Camp in Kidderminster before service in Europe. He was posted to D Coy no 2 depot on the 13th of June 1940 then to 222 Field Ambulance Coy 3rd of September. He was appointed Acting Lance Corporal on the 20th of April 1942, but reverts to the rank of private on the 11th of May. He was transferred to 23 Light Field Ambulance on the 27th of December 1943 and promoted to Lance Corporal on the 12th of March 1944, then appointed acting corporal on the 1st of December. On the 28th of February 1945 he was posted to 181 Air Landing Field Ambulance, 21 Army group and was appointed paid Lance Corporal. Serving with the Allied Land Force in Norway from the 10th of May to the 6th of September 1945. He transferred to 19 Coy RAMC on the 16th of October 1945 and was transferred to the Army reserve on the 8th of December. He died in 1948.

Michael Walmsley



L/Cpl. Albert Gregory Royal Army Medical Corps

The following memories are typed up from extracts written in an old school exercise book found in my father's flat

Albert Gregory, R.A.M.C, attached to D Company, Ox and Bucks, 6th Airborne Division.

He was on the third glider to land on Pegasus Bridge, 6th June 1944. D-Day

Both Ida and Albert worked at Mark and Moody Printers in Stourbridge, they met when they were both working in the Bindery Dept, Albert was walking through, when his trousers got caught on the edge of a table, and he ripped the backside out of them, Ida, being very thoughtful, painted his backside green with the dye she was using to edge a book to hide his embarrassment, just a few days after this, they started going out together, thus was the start of a wonderful life together.

Albert Gregory and Ida Bowen married on a Sunday, 28th of April 1940. After just two short weeks Albert was called up for National Service and joined the army.

As a member of the St Johns Ambulance Service during his civilian days, he applied to be a medical orderly. While playing football one day during his training, he was called to the offices and asked if he would like to join a new section of the army being formed (this would later be called the Airborne Division, consisting of paratroopers), because he knew his new wife was short of money, he applied to join this force because it paid an extra 1-shilling a week (probably now worth in the year 2002 as one quarter of a penny).

He recalled his training, how his first parachute jumps were from a basket, hung beneath a barrage balloon and how the sergeant used to help the nervous with a large boot up the backside to help them on their way. Later he did several parachute jumps from the side door of a DC3 Dakota. He always stated in later life that the worst parachute jumps he had done were from the basket because you would fall for what seemed like an age before the parachute would open.

Soon after once again he volunteered for a new force …… glider borne troops ….. this was a complete new way of taking troops to war, but Albert was always a bit of a dare devil and rose to the challenge. In later life he joked that the first few times he flew, he had never landed with the aircraft he had taken off in, but this was all to change with the gliders.

Ida recalled the times he came home on leave during this training. No one in their home town of Stourbridge had seen the red beret before, and with all the badges and insignia on his arms, people used to walk by the side of him and try to read what regiment this strange soldier with the red beret belonged too. She said she couldn’t stand the people walking by her side, so used to follow him about six feet behind. The opposite view was taken by Albert’s father, when on leave, if they went out together, Albert had to wear his uniform, and his father, being so proud, would say to anyone that would listen, “You see this soldier, well that’s my son!”

During one of these weekend furloughs, Albert brought home a fellow Para from Wales who could not get home and back in the time they had for their leave. He wrote to Ida to inform her that they had a guest for the weekend. She then spent all her rations to give them a real good meal for when they arrived. Unfortunately, when they got off the train, Chris Williams and Albert stopped for a pint in the local pub, it was only supposed to be one pint, but once again the people of Stourbridge were fascinated by the two soldiers in their red berets, and one after another bought them drinks, just so they could talk to them. Eventually, two hours late for their meal, they arrived home so drunk that they could not eat the food, Albert, I believe was chasing the peas round the table with his fork, and they were both having a fit of the giggles. Ida was not amused and I believe Chris was not invited back again.

He describes the gliders as having a metal spine and then covered in cloth, this material was then soaked in dope to make the material stretch and become tight to fit over the skeleton of the aircraft.

During this training, his platoon had a very bad glider crash. During take off, the Whitley bomber, which was towing the glider Albert was travelling in, had engine failure and released the glider only a few hundred feet from the ground. The glider pilot was forced to turn, unfortunately towards the local village and finally crashed into the front door of the church. Five people were killed, including the two pilots, and Albert had severe leg injuries. He was taken to hospital for a few weeks, and on his release from hospital, was surprised to find a jeep and driver waiting for him. He thought at first that he was some kind of celebrity, but soon realised that the jeep was taking him back to the airfield, where he was put into the back of a glider on his own and taken up to face his fears.

Little did he know at that time what all the training was for, he realised that he was part of a group of men that were expected to be part of something rather special. In fact, these troops were to spearhead the invasion, some 12 hours before other Allied troops would land on the beaches of Normandy.

On his last visit home, Albert had told Ida that his was going to be involved in something special, but even he didn’t know what it was, just that it was big. He knew that soon he would be shipped out to fight in some far off place, so that his wife would know that he was on his way, he planned to send her a birthday card to inform her that she would not see him for a while. This he did just three days before D Day.

Albert Gregory

Orne River

R.A.M.C attached to D Company, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment, British 6th Airborne Division

We took off and sat in silence for a while, just listening to the roar of the wind and the tow aircraft’s engines.

We were soon over the French coast and all hell started up, the anti aircraft fire exploded in the night sky, we called the shells “Flaming Onions” because of the way they looked and came towards us in a string. I looked around me, and for once, no one was being airsick. I remember being scared stiff and yet excited in anticipation of what lay ahead of us.

Suddenly, the towrope was released by the glider pilot, and we were away on our own, just the rush of the wind and the downward spiral to France and our fate.

In what seemed only a few minutes the words “Brace, Brace, Brace” were shouted and we all linked arms, awaiting the impact of the landing. I can remember the sparks, which seemed to stream down the fuselage and we touched down, screeching and crashing, till suddenly we came to a stop.

We didn’t bother to open the door of the Horsa, we just all seemed to pile out through the gashes in the fuselage, I grabbed a trolley full of mortar bombs and pulled for all my worth, only for one to fall out and smash my toe. Someone else came over to give me a hand and we ran towards the bridge.

It is very hard to explain to anyone the feelings of war, exhilaration, fear, excitement and comradeship towards your fellow troops who you have been with for the past months.

I ran to the edge of the road leading to the bridge filled with a feeling of apprehension of what was going to happen, but I know I must have had a guardian angel watching over me because I was still there with so much death around me. Perhaps one day I will know what that angel was but I thank god I survived to live a happy life. Bullets were flying everywhere, I heard the cry “Medic” and I ran towards a guy lying at the side of the road, as I ran towards him, I looked to my left and found a German solider running the same way, both trying to survive and not knowing why we were doing what we were doing.

In just a couple of minutes I had injured men who had been hurt in the crash landing, I had three men who I herded into a hedgerow to treat their wounds. I was in that ditch for hours because they would not let me cross the bridge until the snipers had been found. It was about 7 or 8 a.m. before I eventually transferred them to the café and relative safety. I remember a small French girl, ashen faced and scared to hell, I reached into my tunic and gave her my bar of chocolate, but still she did not smile.

I then joined up with about half a dozen other men who were making their way to Ranville to join up with their own companies when the rest of regiment came in on the dropping zones, it had been hours since I saw a familiar face of my own company.

The guys had taken several prisoners at the bridge; one was a young boy of 16, he now keeps a hotel in Hamburg and lets any Airborne stay there for free, I understand he goes back to all the reunions on D Day each year.

I crossed the Orne bridge and passed a Para with six prisoners and later rejoined B Company as we all regrouped at Ranville for the attack on Escoville. I can’t remember our exact approach but I remember the orchard where our mortars were set up and also the farmhouse and the long driveway, I recall digging a trench here and feeling uneasy, I moved to another spot and soon after we were heavily mortar bombed, suffering many casualties. I remember three men from our own mortar squad being severely wounded and I also recall seeing my original trench and found a bomb had landing in it, so what made me move from that position at the time I do not know.

Later we moved to the woods at Chateau St Come, the dead horses and cows were everywhere, bloating up and the awful smell when someone put a bullet in one of them and they burst. It was a smell of death that none of us can describe but will never forget. I recall going on a patrol and running into a bunch of Germans in an armoured truck, and how we ran to get away, I jumped over a low wall, but there was a steep embankment on the other side, I rolled down the bank and finished up in a stagnant pond and stank to high heaven for days afterwards, but thank God we all got away safely.

Now in the twilight of my years, I sometimes sit alone and recall the little things like the time I dug a trench only to find water seeping in, I went out and dragged two parachutes from the trees to line the trench but gave up and chose another spot.

We were shelled, mortared and machine gunned during the day and sometimes bombed at night but the worst were the air burst mortar bombs, which showered shrapnel down on top of us and caused many casualties. I remember the Tiger Tank we had knocked out and how I rolled two bogey wheels and placed them over half my trench for protection, only to find we were moving on that night, so some other soldier moved in as the 51st Highlanders came to relieve us.

I remember the turmoil when D company were cut off and B Company put in an attack to get them out. We had orders to withdraw and as we pulled out up that gulley I remember a German throwing a stick grenade over the hedge, which severely wounded Sgt Stan Bridges in his upper arm. I bandaged and splinted his arm and eventually got him to safety when I joined the other lads in the woods at the Chateau St Come. I remember how we all stepped over a German soldier lying dead across the path leading into the wood. Like many others I will never forget the awful carnage caused when the battleship Warspite opened fire on these woods not knowing the Black Watch of the 51st Highland Division had already cleared it of Germans, also the smell of death that hung over the place because there were bodies everywhere. It was terrible and made one feel sick with the stench. I remember the dug out we used as our command post, the “Moaning Minnie” mortar bombs the constant shelling with air burst shells, which exploded in the air and showered shrapnel on top of us. I remember going on several patrols with Capt Priday and some close encounters when Cpl Pontin took us out on recce and ambush patrols.

I remember how they sent us back about three fields behind the front line for a rest but it was a nightmare because we were bombed, shelled and mortared. I remember one bomb landed a few yards from my trench and the concussion caused the side of my trench to collapse on me. I was half buried and really scared stiff because we couldn’t do anything about it, so we all moved back into the words but as far as I was concerned it was chaos.

We were shelled, mortared and machine gunned during the day and sometimes bombed at night but the worst were the air burst mortar bombs, which showered shrapnel down on top of us and caused many casualties. I remember the Tiger Tank we had knocked out and how I rolled two bogey wheels and placed them over half my trench for protection, only to find we were moving on that night, so some other soldier moved in as the 51st Highlanders came to relieve us.

I remember the turmoil when D company were cut off and B Company put in an attack to get them out. We had orders to withdraw and as we pulled out up that gulley I remember a German throwing a stick grenade over the hedge, which severely wounded Sgt Stan Bridges in his upper arm. I bandaged and splinted his arm and eventually got him to safety when I joined the other lads in the woods at the Chateau St Come. I remember how we all stepped over a German soldier lying dead across the path leading into the wood. Like many others I will never forget the awful carnage caused when the battleship Warspite opened fire on these woods not knowing the Black Watch of the 51st Highland Division had already cleared it of Germans, also the smell of death that hung over the place because there were bodies everywhere. It was terrible and made one feel sick with the stench. I remember the dug out we used as our command post, the “Moaning Minnie” mortar bombs the constant shelling with air burst shells, which exploded in the air and showered shrapnel on top of us. I remember going on several patrols with Capt Priday and some close encounters when Cpl Pontin took us out on recce and ambush patrols.

I remember how they sent us back about three fields behind the front line for a rest but it was a nightmare because we were bombed, shelled and mortared. I remember one bomb landed a few yards from my trench and the concussion caused the side of my trench to collapse on me. I was half buried and really scared stiff because we couldn’t do anything about it, so we all moved back into the words but as far as I was concerned it was chaos.

During these actions I came across some horrible injuries. The worst in my opinion was the one where a piece of shrapnel had hit this man in the corner of his mouth and tore a gash to his ear. The side of his face fell down to his neck and looked an awful mess. I gave him a shot of morphine, then put a roll of lint along his gums, then I pinned his face up with four safety pins, applied a dressing held on with elastoplasts and got him evacuated to the casualty clearing station. Many years later I learned he had survived and was soon on one of the reunions but I never knew his name.

I remember the two tanks in the drive that had been knocked out and were on fire for days. It was here I was wounded in the head by an air burst shell as I ran to help Sgt Bobby Hill who had also been wounded. As I ran toward him, suddenly there was a blinding flash and I fell on top of him, it was he who bandaged me up and got me evacuated back to Bayeaux. A piece of shrapnel had pierced the top of my helmet and blown a big hole in the top of my head.

How I survived all this hell, only God knows.

I regained consciousness in a Dakota DC3 while crossing the channel back to England, I recall a young nurse saying to me that “The wars over for you my lad”! I lost consciousness again, and the next thing I remember is waking up in a military hospital in Oxford, with my wife looking down on me, it was only then that I realised I would be alright.

Ida Gregory

Being a wife of someone in the armed forces was a terrible ordeal, you did not know where they were, you did not know if they were safe, in fact you did not know if they were alive or dead.

One of the worse things to happen during the war years was the arrival of a Post Office telegram boy on his red bicycle in the road or street, for then you knew someone who lived close to you was going to receive some bad news.

I remember the day I heard the news about my husband Albert, I saw the telegram boy turn into King Street, and everyone closed their doors and looked through their net curtains to see which house he would stop at. On this particular day, he knocked on my door.

The telegram read that he had been wounded and was in a military hospital in Oxford, my heart was heavy, but at least he was alive.

The local people gathered to help me, and the next day I caught a train to Oxford in the search for my husband. On arriving in the city, I asked where the hospitals were, only to be informed that there were 17 military hospitals, and so my search began.

Each hospital seemed to be designated a particular injury, so after walking miles I approached the one I didn’t want to go to, Head Injuries.

I asked at the reception if they had a Lance Corporal Albert Gregory, and to my dismay, they said they had.

I approached the ward, not knowing what to find, and was led to a bed surrounded by curtains. There he lay, his head shaved and with wires attached to a machine, his arms strapped to the side of the bed and a 6 inch safety pin from a kilt pushed through his tongue to stop him swallowing it.

For several weeks his was in hospital, then he was transferred to a convalescent home, and at last he came home for a few weeks.

When he joined the army, he was designated as A1, but now he was C3 and would not fight abroad again.

He made a full recovery, but had a six-inch star on the back of his head where the shrapnel had penetrated his helmet.

Le Marchant German POW Camp

After recovering from his injuries, Albert, was transferred to a German POW Camp near Devises. Because of his medical experience, his job was to liase with the German doctors and English and Polish guards at the camp, thus during the day his was locked behind the wire with the POWs.

He found it quite strange, that the camp was separated into two parts, the outer ring of the camp was for the normal German soldier, but in the centre of the camp, there was a special protected part for members of the SS party.

The guards on the look out posts and machine gun towers were Polish, they really hated the Germans for the things they had done after invading Poland, so God forbid anyone who tried to escape.

I had my own office, which I shared with three German doctors and their trustee medical staff; the POWs had large white squares sewn onto their tunics. I could do no wrong in their eyes, as I was the one who said who could travel in the ambulance to take the sick to the local hospital.

I had my own German trustee, his name was Willy Welk, no matter when you asked him for a cup of tea, he would always come back with a brew, even if we had no tea, to this day I do not know where he found the tea, but he did every time.

I recall the day when there was a new influx of German prisoners, only these were coming from the Channel Islands, we found out that they were carrying British Pound notes, so I gave Willy 5 Woodbine cigarettes and sent him outside the perimeter wire, where he sold the cigarettes for one pound, I noticed which German had bought them, and after he had come through the gate, I informed him that the English cigarettes were banned, took them off him and passed them back through the wire to Willy, I made quite a packet in the hour it took to get them all through the gate.

After the new prisoners were in the camp, they were asked to strip and then we sprayed them with DDT power to kill any germs they had on their skin, more interesting to me was that they also carried German night field glasses, German wrist watches and the like, I never took personal items, but what was supplied by the German government was fair game.

These items, including butter and blankets, plus anything else I could scrounge with put into suitcases and posted home to either Ida or my mother and father. The suitcases in wartime were wooden boxes with material stretched over the carcase. These were wonderful, because you filled them up with contraband and nailed them shut, then posted them home from the local railway station. I had to post them home from different stations because the railway staff were getting wise to the tricks going on, and stealing the suitcases.

I recall one day being called with the German doctors to the SS part of the camp where a chap had hung himself from a toilet chain. He had been there for three days and was starting to smell a little, so the SS had asked for him to be cut down, we later found out that he had been murdered (see below)

If we had to go into the SS part of the camp, we had armed guards to protect us. This particular day, as we passed through to the toilet block, an SS officer spat at me, and it hit me on the shoulder, in a flash, one of the German doctors body guards stepped forward and hit him with one punch, he just went down and did not move. After cutting down the dead POW, we were coming back out, and I went forward to see to the POW who had been punched, but was pulled back by the German doctors, and told to “leave him”. Three days later he was brought to the medical centre and we found out he had a broken jaw. I later found out that the doctor’s bodyguard was the heavyweight boxing champion of Germany.

I met some wonderful people at the camp, not all German soldiers were bad people, in fact they wanted to fight a war and be away from their families as much as the rest of us.

A Birthday Surprise

Below is a clipping from The Stourbridge News on May 29, 1997. I was approached by the local newspaper regarding my father after I had asked about the certificate I had found in his belongings, after his death, and it all snowballed from there.

war hero

Below is a photograph which was also in the local paper three years earlier, after an old lady at Stourbridge Age Concern had painted a picture of my father from a black and white photo she had asked him for.

Albert Gregory

I believe that if we do not record for history, the stories of these people they will be lost forever, because now their sons and daughters are getting older, and if we don't put them down on paper, who will.

I feel I am one of the lucky people in this world who did something for their father before his death.

After the loss of my mother, he was very, very down, and eventually had to go into a nursing home because he could not walk very far. To try to buck him up, I telephoned the Airborne Regiment to ask if they would send him a birthday card for his 80th birthday (April 5, 1995), at first the lady who answered the telephone, was quite abrupt, but did ask for his details, rank, number, etc, and then told me that they did not normally do this kind of thing, but she would ask.

Two hours later, I received a telephone call from a Warrant Officer Kelly, asking me more details, i.e. about D Day etc. From then on all hell broke loose, I had telephone calls from national papers, local press, and even local TV. It seemed that the Airborne Regiment, had decided to do something special for my father's birthday, because his was one of the few surviving members of those brave troops.

At first, because the nursing home was situated out in the country, they wanted to parachute a birthday cake to him via The Red Devils parachute team, but in the end, because the national press, etc., could not help with the fuel bill for the Hercules transport, so they decided to send two chopped down Land Rovers and a troop of eight Pathfinder Paras from Aldershot to attack the home in his honour.

On the morning of his 80th birthday, myself and my family went to the nursing home, I felt that I had to tell him he was getting a surprise, but not to tell him what it was (he thought he was getting a kissogram), just in case the shock would kill him.

Picture this:

We sat him in a chair outside the home on the drive, TV cameras, his old pals from Age Concern, the local British Legion and the Normandy Veterans Society, plus some of his old Para chums, and he asks: "You're going to a lot of trouble for a kissogram!"

At that point, two jeeps swept up both sides of the drive, armed to the teeth with rifles and machine guns, stopped abruptly and the troops jumped from the vehicles, lined up, saluted my father and presented him with a cake and a regimental plaque.

To see the tears of joy in his old eyes made me the proudest person in the world.

That night, we all sat around the TV with his friends in the nursing home and watched it all again on Central TV.

That is a day I will take to my grave with me.

Conclusion

So concludes Albert, Ida and his fellow combatants recollections of a time their children and grandchildren now only see in films immortalising war and showing how brave the actors of today are, when in fact we should all praise God that there has been no world wars in our lifetime We go to the cinema to watch films like the Longest Day, but as we sit there, do we realise what these people really went through, I think not.

When Albert was taken ill, and had to go into a nursing home, I was sorting out some drawers in a dressing table, when I came across an envelope with the words War Department printed on the top. I opened it to read that Albert had been recommended for the Military Medal, when I asked him what he had done; his answer was the following “Oh, just doing something stupid!”

Later I found out the truth, Albert had been recommended for the Military Medal because he had ran out to rescue six men who had been wounded, the last man he carried to safety was an officer who had told him to leave him where he was, as he carried him to back to him own lines, the officer was shot again while over Albert’s shoulder, but unfortunately died several weeks later. Thus he did not receive the medal because the officer could not substantiate the evidence

When Remembrance Day comes around each year, Albert would remind me of one thing: “Yes son, remember the soldiers that have died, but also remember that the old people of today gave up six years of their life, so that you may sleep safely in your beds at night, I may have fought on a foreign land, but your mother and thousands of other mothers fought harder at home so that we could come back to a land we loved and had to leave.”

God bless them all.

Alan Gregory



S/Sgt. Robert Henry Cox Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandfather was Robert H Cox. He died before I was born, so I didn't know much about him. I have recently inherited his medals and am desperate to find out more about him. I have his records but they are mainly unreadable. I know he was in the RAMC and served in Singapore. I do have a photograph of him.

Gaye Timbrell



S/Sgt. Robert Henry Cox Royal Army Medical Corps

My maternal grandfather I never knew. He died before I was born in 1947 Robert Cox. I have inherited his medals and have now learnt a great deal. He was born in 1909 on 29 January and was a bicycle repair man before he served the country later in the Army in India/Malaya/Singapore where he contracted cancer. It looks like he died at St John's Island or at least was diagnosed there, he is buried at Abney Park cemetery in London in August 1947.

It looks like he enlisted or was called up twice, as a reservist in the Royal Artillary Reserve in 209 Battery 53rd London and later as an Army Medic in the RAMC. He married my nan, Matilda Elizabeth Leete in August 1928 and soon my Aunt and mother were born in 1931/34.

My mother, Sheila Cecelia Cox, joined the WRAF in July 1951 and met my father Samual John Beauchamp also a serving member of the RAF. I was born in 1955 after my older sister. I joined the WRAF in 1974 as a drill instructor and re-joined some years later in 2001 as a reservist Medic only to be called up for Gulf II as aeromed evacuation. History repeating itself?

My paternal grandfathers' histories in the Army has been fascinating to learn. My paternal grandfather/great grandfather and great, great, grandfather were also in the wars, serving in WW2 as an anti-aircraft gunner in the Royal Artillery, his father in the 1st 2nd and 4th Rifles qualifying as a bugler in Southern Ireland to South Africa to Ladysmith Laing's Nek, Tugela Heights, Sudan and Karthom and India. The letters home to his wife although faded copies, are very proper and sincere. All their medals tell a story which I aim to follow up. My son, Daniel, followed in my footsteps and has served 12 years in the RAF. Completing at least 5 generations serving this country.

Gaye



Ben Fear Royal Army Medical Corps

My dad served in Italy with the RAMC and the Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment.

Jon Fear



Albert "Geoff" Down MID Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandfather, Albert Down, was in the RAMC in WWII. He was Mentioned in Dispatches in the Dunkirk withdrawal. He then went to Africa and then Italy, where he was on General Alexander's staff. He died in 1985.

Julian Down



Capt. Hugh Davidson Miller Royal Army Medical Corps

Does anyone remember a Captain Hugh Davidson Miller of the Royal Army Medical Corps? He was billeted in Scarborough, North Yorkshire and when the town was subjected to a heavy raid on 18th of March 1941, he showed bravery by crawling under a bombed house to administer morphine to those trapped. He was awarded the George Medal at Buckingham Palace. I have tried for years to find anything about him. Any information would be great.

Richard Percy



Capt. Charles L. Barrett Royal Army Medical Corps

My father-in-law, Lt. (later Capt.) Charles L. Barrett, RAMC was a POW in Italy from May 1942 until April 1943. However, I do not know where he was held. Can anyone help?

Grace Barrett



Sgt. Richard Cupit Royal Army Medical Corps

Does anyone remember my dad, Sgt Richard (Dick) Cupit, Royal Army Medical Corps, captured in 1940 and imprisoned in Stalag 8B?

Val Smith



WO/Cpl Herbert Edward Hollingsworth Royal Army Medical Corps (d.24th January 1944)

I am trying to find anyone who remembers Herbert Edward Hollingsworth. He was a Warrant Officer/Cpl in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was killed in 1944 and his memorial is at Cassino in Italy. Herbert may have been known as Edward Hollingsworth. He lived in Colchester, Essex. Does anyone remember him?

Sharon Douglas



Mjr. G Douglas Gordon Royal Army Medical Corps

I am researching my father, Gordon Douglas' RAMC's stay in Malta at the end of the siege. He arrived there on board HMHS Somersetshire on 28th May 1943 and left on HMHS Dorsetshire on 7th March 1944 (which was my 6th birthday - I was a seevacuee in Kamloops, BC Canada). My father kept a very complete diary of his service from 8th September 1939 to May 1945 through France, Belgium, Dunkirk, North Africa, Palestine, Italy and Chepstow(!) and it is inconceivable that he has made an error over the ships' names. Does anybody know if other ships were renamed Dorsetshire and Somersetshire or what other explanation there may be? Any help would be gratefully acknowledged.

During his time in Malta my father was posted to No 39 General Hospital in/near Mellieha and spent time at No 90 GH in Mtarfa and at No 45 GH at St Patricks. Any records of the locations of these hospitals or photographs would also be of great interest to me.

Andy Gordon



Cyril Catchpole Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandad was an ambulance driver, serving with the RAMC and the RASC. He was captured on Crete and was taken to Stalag 8b until the end of the war. On some scraps of paper we found the names: Les Green 15675, Bob Moore 32351 and Harry Ketteridge from Addlestone, Surrey.

Helen



Eric Hart Royal Army Medical Corps

Served with the RAMC at the latter end of the war, going to Singapore to collect soldiers. He was a psychiatric orderly




Dvr. Ted "Sonny" Thornton Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Ted Thornton, was in the 8th Army and the North Africa campaign. He was at El Alamein, Tobruk, Anzio and Salerno. He was a driver who doubled as a surgical assistant.

Jill



Graham King Royal Army Medical Corps

I was a medical orderly with the dental officer at Stalag XXA, but sadly don't remember any names. It wasn't too bad a camp.

Graham King



Wally Bohannan Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandad died, aged 50, before I was born. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was captured at Dunkirk because he stayed behind with theinjured. He was then marched across Europe stopping at various Stalags: XXID and VIIB Lamsdorf. would be great to hear from someone who knew him.

Andrew Swaine



John Robert Ambrose Royal Army Medical Corps

I would be grateful if I hear from anyone who knew Jack Ambrose from India when he was in a POW camp somewhere around Burma. He was in the RAMC and was taken POW somewhere in Burma and moved around. My aunt said he was missing for three years but we never found out details such as dates, etc. He did not talk much about his experience there and once in a fit of anger at the way the army discharged him, threw away his medals. He passed away in 1982, but as his family we would like to have any information about him.

Pam Ambrose



Sgt. Thomas William "Chunky" Knowles 9th General Hospital Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Thomas William Knowles, served as a sergeant in the RAMC attached to the 9th General Hospital. He told me he boxed for the Army and that his nickname was Chunky. If this rings any bells with anyone I would appreciate any information.




Edwin Alfred Downing Royal Army Medical Corps

My father Edwin Downing was with the RAMC and was taken prisoner in 1942 at Tobruk. He was on the march from Poland through to a camp in Germany. He never spoke of his experience. Does anyone remember him?

Gordon Downing



L/Cpl. John Shrigley Southeast Asia Command Royal Army Medical Corps

John Shrigley served in Johore Bahru Hospital, possibly in the Operating Theatres. He sailed home on "Empress of Australia", which docked in Liverpool. Due to their being no transport home at that time in the morning, he walked home from Liverpool.

Mrs. Harrison



Mjr. Brendan Sheehan Royal Army Medical Corps

I am trying to find out about my late grandfather's wartime service in the RAMC. I know that at one point he was on a ship which was torpedoed, but would like to know more. I have his original Officers' Release Book, which may help.

Danae Stevens



Pte. Douglas Anthony Percival Freese

Douglas Freese served in India during WWII and received the India Service Medal, the War Medal and the Burma Star. He was born in India on 26th December 1902 and prior to joining the RAMC worked on the railways. He died in London in March 1975 at the age of 72.

Linda Freese



Pte. Matthew Thompson Royal Army Medical Corps

Matthew Thompson is a relation of a lady called Myrtle Thompson, who comes into the school we attend in Trimdon Station Co. Durham, as part of an AGE UK Co. Durham project. She brought in a diary from Stalag XXa (45), which his details in and we are trying to find out more information about him for her. His POW number, according to his diary is: 17377 and he was captured on 12th of June 1940 at St Valery.

Peter Atherton



Pte. Arthur Rowland 4th General Hospital Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandfather, Arthur Rowland, had been in the Territorial Army. Despite being 37 years old, he volunteered for the RAMC in 1939. He was in A Company at first, and later his letters say 4th General Hospital. He was sent somewhere in Europe and crossed back to England at Dunkirk. He spent the rest of his service time at Leeds where he had plastic surgery on his neck to treat damage caused by radium treatment as a child. The surgery was not a great success, damaging the nerves in his neck. He was discharged in 1941 and joined the ARP in Leicester.

P.J. Lightning



John Edward Atherton Royal Army Medical Corps

Little is known about John Atherton, other than he served in France and did not get evacuated at Dunkirk, but got back to England soon after. He married in Fleetwood in Jun 1940. Spent time after either as a patient or orderly in a Leeds hospital. Fellow soldiers included Jack Fish (from Lancashire) and Bert Packman (from Kent)

John Atherton



A/Sgt. John Bramley Mellor 153rd Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

John Mellor served with No.153 Field Ambulance and was involved with helping displaced persons after the cessation of hostilities and father stayed in the RAMC overseas until 1946. In the family album there are photographs from on the Baltic when the war ended, printed from some negatives he brought back. I remember him saying that there were hundreds of bodies in the sea from German ships carrying refugees that had been sunk by Russian submarines. I subsequently saw a TV programme describing this incident. The Wilhelm Gustloff, one of the ships sunk, was carrying over 10,000 of which few survived.

David Mellor



Capt. Maurice Kirwan Royal Army Medical Corps

Maurice Kirwan was born in Liverpool in 1921, went to Collegiate School and graduated from the University of Liverpool Medical School in 1945. He was drafted into the RAMC and served in France. He was demobbed in 1947 and was married with a military guard of honour consisting of his fellow officers in 1947. The badge on one of his honour guard is from the Kings Regiment of Liverpool, discontinued in the late 1950's.

Dad went on to practice as a GP in Liverpool and then as the chief police surgeon of the Merseyside Police Force for over 20 years. He retired at the age of 70 in 1991 and died in 2001. His son Laurence went on to graduate from the University of Manchester Medical School and has practiced as a hand surgeon and plastic surgeon in the USA since 1987.

Laurence Kirwan



Capt. Alleyne (d.26th December 1946)

Captain Alleyne is buried in the Westbury Cemetery, St. Michael, Barbados.

s flynn



Pte. Ernest Edward Leader Royal Army Medical Corps

All I know is that my father Ernest Leader served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and was stationed in India during World War Two.

Robert Leader



Sgt. John Rheims Smith 3rd Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandfather, John Rheims Smith, was raised an army brat. His father John Metcalf was a Regimental Sergeant Major and the most senior physical fitness instructor in the British Army. He was born in Folkestone, Kent in 1914. He was the first born child. WWI was in early stages at that time. His middle name Rheims was so-called because his father was in Rheims, France at the time of his birth.

He spent his early years in India (his family said his first words were Hindi) and after WW1 ended in 1918 (from 7-14 years) he was based with his family in Germany, his father being a member of the occupying forces. He spoke fluent German when he left. Like his father he joined the army at 14 years old. His military records likely show dob as 1910 because he falsified his age. He was posted to Shanghai China from around 1928-1934 and in Hong Kong was 1934-36. He spoke fluent Cantonese when he left the Army. At the time he left the army his rank was a sergeant.

He returned to England around 1936 and worked at various jobs including being a chauffeur for Mrs Lever, the dowager of Lever of Lever and Kitchen fame (now Unilever).

Around 1938 he had successfully applied for a position as a male nurse at a mental institution and had begun work for a short while when the British Government recalled all recently discharged military personnel to form the British expeditionary forces designed to discourage German military aggression. His few months of medical experience was sufficient to assign him to the Medical Corps. He spent the remainder of his service as a medic, often in the front line of the war.

He went with the BEF to France in 1939 but they were driven back by the Germans eventually to Dunkirk. Amongst the last to leave the beach, there were no more boats available and was ordered to strip and swim and lookout for English boats offshore. He remembers swimming for a long time and was not picked up until after dark by an English fishing boat that had stayed longer than most and happened to spot him with lantern light in the water.

Upon arriving back in England he was held in an internment camp for a few months while the Army confirmed the identity of all the stragglers. His younger brother Pat recounted that one night shortly after the evacuation he arrived late on the door step of his family home near Cambridge and told everyone he was alive and well then left immediately. He had apparently escaped from intern camp and returned back to it in the same night without being missed.

His next assignment was with the British 8th Army where he remained until the end of the war, fighting through North Africa and across the Mediterranean into Italy. Most of what I have heard of this period are disconnected anecdotes without time or place. Field amputation in the back of a moving truck; holding a cigarette in the windpipe of an injured solder because the jaw is missing; a soldier trapped and killed in barbed wire because he wanted to the wear the fleecy sweater mum had knitted him.

He was awarded 5 campaign medals; 2 stars and 3 circular. I think the stars were the North Africa star and Italy star. I cant remember what the 3 circulars were, I am sure one was 1939-45 War Medal.




Pte. Eric Frederick "Mac" McLellan 3 India Base Gen. Hosp. Royal Army Medical Corps

Memories by Eric McLellan

Tales and Memories of the contributions made by a young Essex lad for his King and Country during World War ll

Chapter One

I joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as Private E F McLellan no. 7406038 in 1942. I was 19 years old when I reported to Aldershot, and for half-a-crown, (12.5p) a day, I gave up the next five years of my life for King and Country. Five wasted years? I was never in the front line, I didn't have a gun and I never saw the enemy.

And what a fine mixed bunch of lads we were during our training at the R.A.M.C. depot at Boyce barracks in the summer of 1942. The squad consisted of male nurses, firemen, a "jailbird", milkmen, gardeners, a boxing champion, a film star and young roundsmen from the country grocers and bakers stores deep in the rural countryside of the land.

The chap who had been in prison used to dent a fire bucket with his head to show how tough he was. The boxer would challenge any of us to a few rounds with him in the gym, but there were very few takers. A young roundsman from Somerset used to sleepwalk, and during the night kept waking us up to say that he had eggs in his basket. Then off to bed he would go to catch up on his rounds.

I suppose all in all they were a grand bunch of chaps, some evenings ending with a sing song with me playing my ukelele to keep the songs going. Yes, we certainly had a lot of fun.

Having done our six weeks training at the depot with square bashing, drills, PT, route marches etc, I was posted to the 188 Light Field Ambulance Unit. We were a medical wing attached to the Sixth Armoured Brigade, our chevron being two white fists on a black background sewn onto our battledress tunics. The posting was to an old manor house situated at Manton, about four miles from Marlborough in Wiltshire. This was a beautiful county here on the downs and we used to watch the airborne troops practising jumps or watched the horses being exercised. Our routine tasks consisted of guard duty and generally tidying up the grounds, keeping the driveways clear of weeds, kitchen fatigues, gardening, shifting stones and whitewashing them all neat and tidy. When we were off duty and had time of our own, we would visit the town, taking in a picture show or get a meal in a cafe. Good old egg and chips was always our first choice which went down a treat.

Money was rather short to us soldiers earning the large sum of two shillings and sixpence (12.5p) per day and making a total of 17/6 (87.5p) per week. I sent home ten shillings each week and the remaining seven shillings was mine. You may wonder what happened to the other sixpence. Well this was stopped for barrack room damages that occurred from time to time and we still had to pay even if we were under canvas. However, there was better light at the end of the tunnel. Whilst waiting for our next move, a call came for farming parties. A couple of the local farmers had applied for help to gather in some of the crops which included swedes, cabbages and potatoes. For this, the farmers would hire four three ton lorries and eight men for each, paying the war office a certain amount of money for the job to be done. Us chaps on the working party would receive one shilling and sixpence (7.5p) per day for our labour. The working day would start at eight in the morning until five at night. We could then stay on to work in our own time to be paid three shillings (15p) per hour which was all ours and due to double summertime we worked up until ten in the evening, thus giving us a bit more pocket money to spend.

The best job to be done was the haymaking with two men on the lorry and six collecting the hay, taking turns to drive back to the farm and build a haystack. The old farmer would then supply us with food together with four or five crates of beer and didn't that go down a treat! We all took turns to get onto the working party on average about twice a week while the work lasted and wondered what was in store for us the following week.

Soon it was off to Ogbourne St George, five miles south of Swindon on the Marlborough Downs for manoeuvres with the tanks and trying our luck on the firing range. This lasted a week with two, twenty mile route marches thrown in. Still, it kept us fit and healthy.

Then the call came for us to be on the move again. After packing up lock, stock and barrel, our destination was found to be North Cerney, a pretty little village in the heart of the countryside, about seven or eight miles from Cirencester in Gloucestershire. This was another huge country house together with stables and here again, we settled down once more to the old routine. November came round and I was picked to carry our unit's wreath, marching through the country lanes and town to the local church for the Sunday morning service on Armistice day. I must say that I felt very honoured to be chosen for this solemn task.

As time went by, I became a bit frustrated continually having to do the same old jobs of gardening, guard and cookhouse duties so I asked to see the commanding officer of the unit. I complained to him saying that I did not consider that moving and whitewashing stones was helping with the war effort. Was it therefore possible to be posted to hospital so as to continue with my studies in nursing, having passed the preliminary for my Royal Medico-Psychological Association certificate (RMPA), before enlisting in the army. Another chap also complained and within a couple of weeks in February 1943, we were both rewarded with a temporary posting to Stratton St Margarets hospital near Swindon in Wiltshire. This was more like it.

It was a small cottage hospital and we both worked on different wards doing general duties tidying up, shaving different patients who could not shave themselves, preparing patients who were due for an operation, taking them to the theatre and wheeling them back to the ward afterwards. It certainly was good to be around the wards with the smell of ether and Dettol floating about. Much better than moving and whitewashing stones.

John and I were there for about three months and then we went our separate ways. He to Netley hospital in Southampton and I for a trip across the Irish sea, travelling first up to Stranraer in Scotland, then across to Larne, and on to Grahamholme military hospital near Purdysburn, Northern Ireland. This was a small mental wing attached to the main hospital and was about three miles from Belfast city centre.

It was here that I again met one or two army officers who were doctors at Runwell hospital in Essex while I was doing my training. The patients were all army chaps who had had nervous breakdowns. They were sent to us for assessment before going in front of a medical board for final discharge from the army. I suppose it was here that I started doing escort duties taking patients transferred to other hospitals on the main land like Newcastle, Southampton and Surrey. It put me right for future escort duties for the rest of my army career. There would be at least one escort for each patient and the transport office supplied us with a first class rail pass for the outward journey and a third class pass for the journey back to base. Having duly dispatched our patients to the relevant hospital psychiatric ward we set about returning to Purdysburn. Third class was basic for the long journey ahead so in order to get more comfortable seats, we slipped into the first class compartment. When the train stopped at a station and anyone approached the carriage, one of us would act as if he were a mental patient so as to stop other passengers from coming in the compartment. It worked every time.

It was also here at Purdysburn that I palled up with Percy who was one of the cooks at the hospital wing. We went out and about together and he always kept me supplied with milky rice puddings which I have always enjoyed. He was a very smart chap, immaculately dressed and clean whether on or off duty. A complete contrast to another cook who was the scruffiest and dirtiest bloke in the unit. He didn't know what water was and never seemed to wash himself. To cap it all, he was so lazy that he used to use his army boots to piss in during the night to save him from getting out of bed and going to the toilet. Mind you, his boots fitted him very snugly but there again you met all sorts and types.

After about five or six months about a dozen of us were sent on embarkation leave for ten days, for destinations unknown, visiting people and friends including a visit to my mates at Runwell hospital. One visit I found very hard to make was to my old mate Tommy Smart. We had such great times together but this I knew would be the last time that I would see him. He was in Southend general hospital dying of cancer and it was pitiful indeed to see him laying there, a skeleton of his former self. He was only thirty-eight years of age and so young to die. I took him home many times where he would play the piano and sing in his fine Welsh baritone voice. Such a sad loss.

With my leave over, I boarded the troop train in London and headed for Scotland, arriving at Greenock that night. It was not until next morning that we could see ships of the convoy preparing for sea.

Chapter Two

I was put on the commodore ship HMS Ranchi along with about fifteen hundred other troops. The Ranchi was the ship in charge and the whole convoy was made up from a large assortment of men from different battalions which included the number one marine commandos. For sleeping, our beds were hammocks. This was strange at first, trying to get into it, but remarkably they were comfort themselves once you got the hang of it.

On board, I palled up with a very nice chap called Harry Crowe. He had also done a bit of nursing and worked with the social services, including being a church Verger. I include his name because later he pops up again. My job was in the sick bay so I did not see much of the sea, but going on deck when off duty revealed the fine sight of about twelve ships steaming forth with destroyers zig-zagging about, keeping alert for submarines in the area. We passed through the straits of Gibraltar during the night and found next morning that three oil tankers had joined the convoy from Tangiers. The next day we had our first air raid. German and Italian planes came from all angles and did their job. Two of the tankers we picked up (we later heard they were heading for Malta) got direct hits. What a sight, thick black smoke from both ships spiralling skywards. As dusk approached, smoke and flames could be seen from miles away.

From the deck we watched the raid without thinking of the danger which was about to rain down on us. Suddenly we felt two almighty thuds. They had hit us with two bombs which fortunately did not explode. The first took the the corner of the bridge away, and the second went through the deck and came out of the port side bow, just above the water line. Luckily there were no casualties. The gunners of the ships kept pounding away but we didn't see any planes shot down. The lads did their best and this all carried on for about forty five minutes. Some of the other ships were also hit, though how badly we couldn't find out. Talk on the ship was about the raid, but we soon learnt that owing to the damage, our boat was to continue at minimum speed, diverted to Alexandria in Egypt.

Next day we found ourselves laid up in the docks. Being unable to stay on the ship while repairs were done, meant two days spent playing deck games and boat racing, just to keep us fit I suppose. It was all good fun though. We were then moved to a small tented holding camp about three miles from Alexandria called Sidi Bish. Here under canvas we slept on the sand which can be very hard. The weather was nice and warm during the day although it became jolly cold at night. Some of us were in charge of small squads of men, drilling them up and down the roads, doing a bit of P.T. and playing a little football.

Surrounding the camp were fields of sugar cane growing which was very sweet and tasty to chew on.

Taking a stroll down to the beach, we passed in all its splendour, King Farouk's summer palace, gleaming white in the sunshine and all the while trying to dodge the young boys attempting to sell us watches and trinkets. No peace from them. Another of our duties was to take three lads into "Alex" to guard the Q.A. nursing sisters who had been accommodated in a hotel. It was a grand building with a beautiful marble spiral staircase rising up four floors. In the evening when off duty, we went to the canteen or Y.M.C.A. for a bite to eat and a bit of recreation like playing "crown and anchor" or "housey housey". Some of the other lads and I had egg and chips six times each whilst playing.

The marine commandos usually went into "Alex" at night but one of their lads was beaten up and knifed, so the next night they went and smashed up the town, causing mayhem. They were a wild bunch.

Camel cigarettes, now there's a thing. They were a free army ration to the troops and what a smoke. They tasted like real Camels dung and even the locals turned their noses up at them. Now English "cigs", yes please. Players, Senior Service, Woodbines, Weights, Embassy etc, they would pay a high price to obtain them.

After about ten weeks it was time to be on the move again, so boarding the troop train, we were taken to Port Taufiq at the other end of the Suez Canal. The ship was called the "City of London", a somewhat converted cargo boat which had been doing the Egypt to India run for over twenty years. Talk about falling to bits, that was an understatement. It crawled alive with ants, beetles, mice, rats and holes in the deck where you could view the engine room below. Nevertheless it was to be our home for the next few days. After a day in port awaiting further troops to arrive and loading up the ship with stores, we finally set sail and made our way through the Red Sea with very little to see on either side, only a few huts and shacks with a little oasis dotted here and there.

The temperature was around the one hundred degree mark making it enjoyable to be on deck amid a nice cool breeze and the constant throb of the engines which eventually took us past Aden, until now only seen in the distance. Aden we were told was built inside a vast volcano, but that's all we could find out about it.

From the Red Sea we sailed into the Indian ocean. Such vastness was unbelievable as all one could see was the distant horizon when turning a complete circle. Towards dusk the sea would calm looking like a mirror. Then to watch flying fish coming up and gliding some way before plopping back into the sea. Another sight to see was when the bows of the ship carved its way through a school of porpoises. Either side you could see them racing the ship for several hundred yards then veer off on their merry way.

Chapter Three

The seventeenth of January 1944 was my twenty-first birthday and here I was on this old tramp steamer in the middle of the Indian ocean with not a birthday card in sight, only the vastness of the sea. Flying fish lay on the deck waiting for the lackies to collect them up to cook for their breakfast. Harry Crowe was up and about. He was very thoughtful, giving me a pocket sized Holy Bible which was gratefully received, so I purchased from the ships canteen one tin of Victoria plums and one tin of carnation evaporated milk and we had them for our tea to celebrate.

After a few days passed, there on the horizon getting larger and larger was the coast of India. On going into the docks the next day in Bombay, we could see the large arched monument aptly named the "Gateway to the East". While disembarking from the boat and loading onto the train, we were told that we would be going to Deolali for distribution throughout India. The carriages were like converted cattle trucks with wooden seats. We had arrived in a country of 650,000,000 very poor people. The humidity was terrible and the carriages were crammed with sweaty young men.

Rolling out of the harbour, we slowly made our way, climbing gradually up the mountainside. What a lovely sight looking down the valley. Arriving at Kalyan, another train was attached and we set off climbing higher and higher until we eventually came to this huge holding camp at Deolali which was to be our home for two or three days while they sorted us out.

With so many troops in this tented village, all meals were served on the football pitch. What a to do. Unfortunately nobody told us about the birds. These were called kite hawks or scavengers and were always about at mealtimes. Us white-kneed rookies would line up with our dinner plates in one hand and our pudding plus mess tin full of tea in the other. We then had to cross the pitch to our tent to consume it. It was while walking and balancing plates that these birds would swoop down and claw everything off the plate leaving nothing. That was the first thing we learnt, always cover food up when in the open. We used to get our own back because of the meat being tough. We tied some meat to a long piece of string and a tin can full of stones to the other end. We'd throw it to the birds then down they'd come, snatch up the meat and fly away with the stones rattling behind them. Great fun, and just a little something to pass the time of day.

At last our postings came through. With a sad goodbye, Harry was sent up to Calcutta and I was destined to go to Poona. This was where all the pucka Sahibs used to brag about going to in the early thirties. (When I was in Poona, la-di-da). Eventually, after a day's journey, I arrived at 3 I.B.G.H. (Indian Base General Hospital) which was spread over a wide area. About a dozen of us arrived and were duly put in number one ward, (general) which at that time was empty. Here we could choose our bed, called charpoys made of wood and strung with coya rope, but little did we know about bed bugs.

These little perishers were white and very difficult to spot and they must have been very hungry. At bedtime, tucking in the old mosquito net around the bed, sleep was heaven sent, but waking up next morning I was covered with little red bites all over me. The answer was in the corners of the mosey net. Hundreds of bugs bright red, filled to the brim with our blood! Talk about a transfusion service. Some of the lads were lucky enough to have iron beds, so armed with a blowlamp burnt all the little blighters hiding in all the nooks and crannies. Those of us with wooden beds could only stand the four legs in tins filled with paraffin which didn't make a lot of difference, they still got to you.

Our wing for about half a dozen of us was section fifteen, the mental wing for servicemen who had nervous breakdowns and had cracked up in Burma and Singapore. The ward consisted of up to thirty six other ranks, also an officers ward of sixteen who also could not stand up to the strains of war and the discipline of army service. These were young soldiers from the front line who'd had nervous breakdowns and gone berserk. On both wards treatment was given, but in those days, there was no cure. ECT (electric convulsional therapy) was in its infancy and we used this to try and shake them out of their disturbed state of mind. Sometimes it worked, though more often than not it didn't. ECT and Somnifane did help a few, but in the end they were all shipped out for eventual discharge or light duties back home.

I palled up with a chap called Andrews (Andy) who was a mental nurse from Norfolk, but to see and hear him with his Norfolk accent, you would think he was a country farmer. He was in charge of the animals in the section, a pony, pigs and also a few chickens. Every day he would get the old pony and cart out and go round all the wards to collect swill for the pigs. After fattening them up he would sell them to people outside, the money going to the patients amenities fund for fruit, cigarettes and sweets etc. From time to time I would help Andy kill a young pig or to scald it, scrape it and gut it ready for the officers mess if they were having a party or some bigwig was visiting for an inspection. He was a good mate.

On the section we had different Indians working. Cooks, sweepers, bearers, char wallahs, dobi wallahs and the barber who used to call every day to give us chaps a shave. This cost three rupees a week and he could even shave you while being asleep. The bearer would look after you laying your clothes out for the day, making up the bed, and generally tidying up the barrack room. The sweeper would sweep around the building keeping it clean and tidy. The dobi wallah would call each day to collect the dirty washing, (we all wore whites) take it away, wash it, iron it and return it later in the evening for which he charged two rupees a day.

The char wallah would come at seven in the morning with his urn of tea and wads, keeping it hot with charcoal burning under the urn. Here he would remain all day, thus presenting us with stewed tea until the evening, but nevertheless it tickled the old tonsils and tasted good. The wads he sold us were a kind of bun made with atter (flour). These buns were infested with weevils, a small black beetle. By the time you picked them all out there was nothing left, so we ate them, weevils and all. It didn't appear to do us any harm.

The food in general was not bad. Curry and rice was always on the menu, all rather hot but we soon got used to it. Then there was chicken, goats meat or sheep. There was not a lot of difference but at least there was the good old banger. All these dishes were served up with sweet potatoes, peas and cabbage to make a meal to stop the worms from biting. Another strange thing was the soya link which was a kind of sausage made from soya beans. They tasted like sawdust mixed with flour but we still ate them.

Fruit was plentiful. Oranges, limes, bananas, mangoes and a thing called custard apple. These were about the size of a lemon which, when cut in half were full of pips in a creamy substance. They were quite tasty.

After a few weeks had passed, more orderlies arrived replacing those who were off escorting patients on the hospital ship sailing home. Bill Green was one of the chaps who came to the section having previously been in the airborne regiment and was transferred to the medics. He was a grand lad, (and still is). I well remember the days when he and his wife Beryl were expecting their second child back in Leicester.

Poor old Bill was naturally worried as to how she was faring, but good news came with the arrival of a baby girl to be named Avril, to go with Paul their son. It certainly put his mind at rest to know that both were doing well.

Bill, Andy and myself would often go swimming together with others to the Willingdon pool, spending a couple of relaxing hours amid pleasant surroundings along with Tubby, Scotty, Dave and Paddy. After our swim we would wander down to Poona town about a mile away and head for the Chinese Kamling restaurant there to fill ourselves with a lovely American chop suey meal together with sweet, iced coffee. It sure was very filling.

Another time we went to the hospital recreation hall for a musical evening of light classics. We sat on raised seats looking down to the empty stage, except for one large radiogram placed in the centre lit by two spotlights beaming down in a darkened hall. The first piece of music played was Finlandia followed by more works from different composers. Sitting in the dark with the old mince pies (eyes) closed, one thought of many things appertaining to heaven.

The climate during the summer season was of course very hot and humid. Everywhere being dry, bare and very dusty. Cows and bullocks roamed around freely all over the place. They were sacred and not killed for their meat like goats and sheep. All cow pats were collected up and the women would mix them with straw using their hands to make big round pats which were stuck on the outside walls of their huts to dry. This they later used for fuelling the fires while cooking food etc.

Chapter Four

The wettest part of the year was the monsoon season with nearly three months of almost continual rain. It was then you could see the change in the countryside with everything coming into bloom. Flowers, trees, bushes and lovely green grass which the animals enjoyed. One could see them grow fatter everyday. Then there was tea and scones with strawberry jam and a thick layer of buffaloes cream on top. It makes the old mouth water just thinking about it.

The monsoon lasted from about July to September and was nice to sit out in a pair of shorts thinking that you were under a lovely warm shower. Playing football was also a bit of alright in the rain. This wet time was when the snakes were about and the most dangerous was the krait. Talking of snakes, a few travellers would pass from time to time carrying a small sack and basket. When he had a few people around him, he would produce a snake and a mongoose to do battle with each other. Of course, the mongoose would always win, so after collecting a few annas from the folks, went on his merry way, no doubt to buy a small bottle (about four ounces) of toddy. This was the sap from a certain tree which, when gathered was milky white in appearance and was medicinal, they said for aches and pains. When it was clear like gin it was very potent alcoholically and plenty of Indians were seen dead drunk after drinking their little bottle. Beetlenut was the chewing habit of the east and was a laurel-like leaf which when chewed continuously made the mouth and teeth all red which they spat about all over the place. They said it was to clean the teeth, keeping them white. Filthy habit!

From time to time a hospital train would arrive at Poona to collect patients bound for home. Our job was to escort them to Bombay and see them safely on to the hospital ship. This is where we saw a lot of crafty kids. They would climb up the telephone poles at the side of the railway track level with the carriage windows. Naturally, interested passengers being shunted slowly into the dock areas popped their heads out of the windows, and as the train went slowly by, those wearing glasses had them snatched off their faces, then to be seen the next day in the optician's shop window in Bombay. Those kids would do anything for a few rupees.

After dispatching patients on to the ship, time was ours to do as we pleased until midnight so we popped along to the swimming pool at Colarba, just outside Bombay. This was to cool ourselves down, it being very hot and sticky, humidity being very high, you could cut it with a knife. After our swim and something to eat we would perhaps go to the cinema to cool off. It was like going into a fridge, lovely and cool, passing the time away. Another time we were in town, a few lads went up to the Y.M.C.A. canteen for something to eat. With us was Taffy Jones. After the meal he got up on the stage and began to play the piano.

What a lovely pianist playing some of the classics, then he sang and what a beautiful tenor voice he had. We all sat there in amazement at his range and richness with songs like Jerusalem, Because, Trees, You are my hearts delight and many more. He was wonderful and it was while he played that he was approached by someone from all India radio and was heard a few times broadcasting. E.N.S.A. soon took him away to entertain the troops and the last I heard of him was that he had caught black fever in Germany and was sent home.

Another thing I noticed while in Bombay was the Parsee Sect. These were known at the time as white Indians because of their skin being nearly white as opposed to the others being brown. They were very clean indeed and very pretty. All the women wore their immaculate pure white silk sahrees with edged embroidery of many colours looking like new pins amidst the dirt and rubbish strewn streets of Bombay. Then at the end of the day after visiting different places, we made our way to the station, catching the midnight train back to Poona, arriving at about seven o clock next morning.

A very posh train that ran from Poona to Bombay was the "Deccan Queen". The journey took four hours non stop, leaving at seven in the morning and arriving at eleven. I say posh because it didn't have passengers hanging on the sides or sitting on the roof like other trains. It was very clean and bright with a restaurant car attached, and said to be the fastest short haul train in the country.

Chapter Five

My first escort job was to take an Anglo-Indian discharged from the army back to Jullundur, near Lahore. He was, of course, from a mixed marriage and his people were very kind to me during my week long stay with them. I then had to report to the R.T.O. (Rail Transport Officer). Here he would book me a ticket and a seat for me to return to Poona. They kindly invited me to stay again any time I was passing and this I did several times on my different assignments. They were all very kind and I enjoyed their company. This my first trip was the start of many to different parts of India which eventually proved to be a lot of miles. Madras, Cochin, Kandy in Ceylon, Mhow and Agra. Taking in the Taj Mahal. What an incredible building, more so in the moonlight standing there all white in the darkness. It was constructed of what appeared to be white marble and was built for the Shah Jehan in memory of his favourite wife who died in 1629. It took twenty thousand workers, twenty years to build. It was also said that everyone who worked on the Taj was killed so that another would not be built. It is really a magnificent piece of architecture.

Hyderabad state was a very nice place and ruled by the Nassim of Hyderabad who at that time was said to be one of the richest men in the world. Apparently there were railway trucks in the palace grounds filled with gold bars all overgrown with weeds and an underground cave where he went every year to count all his money, jewels and wealth.

Another trip was to a place called Mhow. As the train wound its way between the hillside, monkeys and apes ran alongside hoping for some titbits. On nearing our journeys end, darkness had fallen. Passing different trees, they would light up with millions of fireflies winking in flight, making another incredible sight. Having delivered my patient to the hospital, a visit to the local town was called for. I set off, and while waiting for my train, I noticed an officer coming towards me. I could tell he hadn't been in India very long owing to his new tropical kit and white knees, so I pulled out my handkerchief and started blowing my nose. As he passed by, I heard "Hey soldier!" I turned round to see him calling me so I walked back towards him. He said "Don't you know that you're supposed to salute and officer?" I replied that I was in an awkward predicament blowing my nose at the time and was unable to do so at your passing. He looked at me and then at my R.A.M.C. epaulettes and must have thought I belonged to the local hospital. "Next time you pass an officer you salute him or you'll be for it." With that, he turned on his heels and went. What a pompous twit and rookie I thought.

Back at the section life drifted slowly by, then one evening Bill, Andy and myself went for a stroll and came across a lot of horses being exercised in some lavish grounds. After watching them for about half an hour a very smart, well dressed Anglo-Indian came up to us and asked if we were interested in horses. We of course said yes, but really just for a bit of conversation. He then asked would we like to come in and see the horses. Oh yes please, so we tramped in after him and stood in the centre of this large ring of horses.

He then began to name every horse, which race and how much money each had won. There were about forty horses walking around. He said he had about one hundred and eleven altogether to be kept in for training or breeding. He then introduced himself as Major Jedhav who had been leading trainer for the last eight years to the Maharaja of Gwalior. He was certainly a very interesting man to listen to but then to our surprise he asked if we would like to see his highness's holy temple, him not being in residence at the time. This was the icing on the cake. The temple stood in the grounds opposite the stables and was a beautiful white gleaming building similar to a mini Taj in design. The roof consisted of a huge dome in the middle with about eight pencil like towers all around it and on top of each was a golden ball, said to be solid gold. Down the path we trod between colourful flower beds until we reached the door. Here we took off our shoes and entered there to stand and take in the wonder before us. Casting an eye upwards to the domed ceiling, one thought of being in the cistine chapel at Rome. Magnificent paintings with colours of all beauty. The walls bedecked with pictures seemed to be inlaid ceramics in white and coloured marble depicting the Gwalior dynasty. They certainly were an eye catcher. The floor itself was of mosaic design and perfectly laid making the whole building so cool and refined. Flowers were everywhere and incense was burning, giving a scented aroma about the place. Then we came face to face with a huge Buddha statue in black and gold, studded with hundreds of diamonds and jewels surrounded in a wrought iron cage finished in black with gold leaf design.

Such riches, elegance, cleanliness and beauty in the palace grounds and temple. One found it hard facing the real world of overcrowding, homelessness, poverty, dirt and disease where ordinary people just scraped a living. Rabid beggars, and there were many, bitten by rabid dogs, crawling around on stumps of legs and arms. A pitiful sight after all the splendour we had seen. They say that we don't know how the other half of the world lives, but here we saw it at its grimmest.

When the Poona races were on, all the elite showed themselves. The Maharaja of Gwalior and Baroda would be there together with their jockeys Britt and Roberts, then on to other meetings in different parts of India. When the Indian summer season finished they would come over to England and ride the flat season there.

Chapter Six

Patients still arrived from time to time and along with one batch came my mate of the boat - Harry Crowe. But this was not the Harry I left at Deolali, this was very much a changed man. He had been sent to a unit in Calcutta and eventually became a patient himself suffering a mental breakdown. When we chatted he would break down and cry, becoming very depressed he kept saying he could take no more. I asked if I could look after him and took him over the O.T. (occupational therapy) workshop giving him little jobs to do and having many chats until his departure for home. Alas, he was a sorry sight to see and I was never able to find out what happened to him on his return.

A week before another trip to Bombay, we heard that an ammunition ship had blown up with over six thousand casualties and more than half dead. (English newspapers reported three hundred killed.) Going slowly into the harbour and dock area one could see the devastation caused. The stench of burnt flesh and bodies hung over Bombay for very many weeks.

One night while travelling back from Bombay to Poona, I managed to get a glimpse of Mahatma Ghandi. He joined the same train as me, crammed with passengers inside as well as others hanging from the outside and sitting up on the roof. The train kept stopping and starting at every station, level crossing, road and gate for him to wave at the thousands of people who had come to see this frail, loinclothed grand old man with metal rimmed glasses and stick who advocated change by non-violent means and to whom everyone had put their faith in. I watched from the window in my crowded carriage, about sixty feet away as he stood on the train step in the doorway waving and talking to the gathered crowd who chanted Mahatma, Mahatma in the cool evening. Each stop would last between five and ten minutes. What a long night it was. The journey would normally take six hours but with all the stops and starts it took about nine hours before we finally pulled in to Poona station.

Andy at the section had been left a dachshund (sausage dog) by a patient who said he wasn't allowed to take it home with him owing to its age. Ruddy was his name and was very good company. Andy, Bill and I very often would take him to the patients dining room to sort out the wild cats who came for scraps of food left by the patients. Another search was for a coypu-like rodent called a Bandicoot. These were found in the drains and drainpipes. Ruddy used to sort them out and kill them because they were a pest and a danger to health.

Then my name came up for priority leave. This applied to all who had been abroad for two years or more so with the thought of going home, it was down to Poona to pick up a few presents for the folks back home. A well serviced plane awaited us upon our arrival at Poona aerodrome. Soon it was up into the skies over the gats (mountains) to Karachi where we had a meal while the aeroplane was refuelled, then on to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf (Habbaniyah) then to Lyyd for another stop. Next it was to El Adam in Libya flying through an electrical storm over the sea near Port Said. After picking up six chaps during our short stay, we made our way to Sardinia for an overnight stop. Two or three of us sloped off to the pictures in the evening but the film was Italian and we couldn't understand a word of it. Nevertheless, it passed a couple of hours away.

The next day we were on our final journey to Britain, landing at Brize Norton.

Chapter Eight

Although my escort duties took me to many parts of India, some journeys lasting two or three days, my last assignment was a nine-day train journey. I took an Indian officer discharged from the army to his home and handed him over to his brother who was to look after him. At certain stations along the way we would stop for about two hours enabling the train crew to fill up with coal and water. Many families whose home was a small square of the platform ran to the engine to get hot water for their cooking and some coal which fell while loading the train.

All our meals were ordered in advance which we ate in the station restaurant. There was a little boy sitting in the corner pulling a rope attached to a big fan cooling us down while we ate and at the same time kept the flies moving.

During the night and unbeknown to me while I slept, the train had stopped and my patient officer had gone. This was the first time that I had lost a patient, so getting off at the next stop, I caught the next train back to Poona. Luck was with me that morning. We stopped at a small station to pick up more travellers when I saw my patient standing there all alone dressed in Indian white clothes. Where he got them from I do not know, however bundling my things and his from the train, I grabbed him and so continued our journey. On the fifth day our train came to a stop and the guard was calling for a medical man as the train had knocked someone down. I went along to see if I could help and found an old man with the back of his skull sliced off and was dead. Wrapping up his head and body, the engine driver stopped at the next station to drop the body off. It must have been a blind and deaf old tramp walking along the line.

Continuing our journey, there was not a lot to see except the plains rolling by brown, dusty and bare little hamlets of a few people around a water hole with their poor little donkey or camel walking backwards and forwards pulling up buckets of water. I felt sorry for the animals in the heat of the day.

Our journey took us through Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar then by Tonga to a little place called Zaid, really out in the wilds and near the northwest frontier. A few miles before Zaid an army jeep pulled up and asked what I was doing and where I was going. I explained and showed them my papers and they said that they would take me the rest of the way as it could be dangerous. On reaching our destination, I signed over my patient to his brother and returned to the jeep. The lads in the jeep turned out to be Gurkhas who were on manoeuvres but could not take me back to Peshawar for another couple of days so I stayed with them and found them to be a very nice bunch of lads living under canvas.

My, couldn't they make a cup of tea. Strong, thick and tasting like nectar from the gods. After being taken back to Peshawar, I reported to the R.T.O. stopping off at Lahore for another stay with my friends at Jullunder, smashing, then back to Poona.

Well even with the war being over, the work of looking after patients continued and in the meantime I had been playing football and unfortunately got a twisted left knee which blew up like a balloon thus putting me in hospital for about three weeks until it went down. With my leg still bandaged, I plodded about like peg legged Pete doing light duties. As time went by, the process of demobilisation came through. Andy returned home and left me with Ruddy the dog. Bill had also gone home and my turn was hopefully coming up in the near future.

As the days rolled by waiting for my turn, I had a shock one morning. There under my bed lay Ruddy in a pool of blood. How he made his way back to the billet I do not know. Somebody had shot him and the bullet had passed through his stomach, coming out the other side, poor old lad. I rushed him to the vets in town and they did a very good job, sewing him up with a dressing around his middle like a belly warmer. I'm glad to say he was soon up and about recovering well.

At last news came through of our demob, so collecting a few more presents for the old kitbag, the next thing was how to pack all the odds and ends collected over the last two and a half years. We also heard that kitbags, boxes and parcels were carried on the boat yourself. Anything you dropped was left behind and lost, which I suppose was fair enough. After finishing all my packing, I found that I had a tin case, two kit bags sewn together, one normal sized kitbag plus my ukelele. I was hoping I could manage it all.

Arriving at the dockside I found our ship to be HMS Georgic carrying about three thousand troops. I loaded myself up, small kitbag across my backpack, tin box in one hand, enlarged kitbag under my arm together with my uke and trusting my leg would stand the strain. I prepared to board. Walking on to the high step of the gangway, my small kitbag fell off and to my horror I knew that was it. I said to the guard on duty at the bottom of the gangway that I had just come out of hospital with a gammy leg and would he be kind enough to replace the bag on my back? Instead he said "I'll bring this one." How relieved I was to have that bag on the boat.

Chapter Nine

So my last long boat journey began by crossing the Indian Ocean travelling once more through the Red Sea, up the Suez Canal to Port Said. Still the boat traders were busy doing their work and many of the chaps picked up last minute mementos to take home. It was on through the Mediterranean, across the Bay of Biscay, our final destination being Liverpool.

The next worry was Customs and Excise. Would they go through our kit? No, all ordinary ranks were lucky, but the customs men went through all the officers' kit with a fine tooth comb.

One of the unlucky things was after carrying my uke halfway round the world, enjoying musical evenings and sing songs, I dropped it down the gangway into the river, never to be seen again.

We boarded the train to take us down to London where we were each decked out in a demob suit and then off home as a civilian to catch up with life lost owing to nearly five years of army service.

Over the years since the war, many named places have changed or do not even exist any more. Ceylon is now Sri Lanka. India split up after independence becoming India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. When asked "What did you do in the war?" I just say "Not a lot!"

But I did see a small part of the other side of the world. How people lived, worked and played. After seeing dirt, disease, squalor, homelessness, putting up with the heat, flies, bugs, mosquitoes, sands of the deserts, the bareness of the ground for eight or nine months of the year, it was good to be back amid the greenery of the English countryside with the four seasons winter, spring, summer and autumn. Yes, it certainly was good to be back home.

John McLellan



L/Cpl Disraeli Hyman "Dave" Smith Royal Army Medical Corps

My grandfather Disraeli (Dave) Smith was in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 14th of August 1941 to February 1946. We also know he was stationed in Peshawar, India on 14th of November 1942 and in Burma. If anyone remembers him or have any information about him, it would be really appreciated if they could please let me know. Thank you Jennifer

Jennifer Bonert



L/Cpl. Paul George Hamilton 17th Field Ambulance Medical Corps

My father, Peter Sidney Hamilton, L/Cpl 93262 was a POW in Italy in 1943 at Sforzacosta Camp 53 near Macerata, along with his brother, Paul George Hamilton, L/Cpl 176162 who was with the Medical Corps. They escaped and Paul was shot soon after by the Germans during battle and is buried at the military cemetery at Ancona.

My father, Peter, was transferred to Stalag 4B after he was recaptured by the Germans. Thereafter, it appears he escaped and was later recaptured by the Gestapo. After this, the story seems to fizzle out. My father passed on in 1999 aged 76.

If anyone has any further information about either of these two men, it will be gratefully received.

Barbara Georges



Pte. Henry "Pat" Regan 199th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Henry Regan enlisted to the RAMC 199th Field Ambulance on 14th of March 1940 and had his initial training in the wards of the hospital at Millbank as a nursing orderly. For many years prior to the war, he had worked as a cook (1st class) in a London hotel, which is documented in army records now in my possession. For most of WW2 he served as both a nursing orderly and cook in North Africa and, as far as I know, his duties later took him to Malta and Italy.

One day, while travelling through the desert in an ambulance, seated next to the driver and with injured servicemen on board, the vehicle came under fire from a passing German plane and, although the attack was thankfully brief, the driver was injured. My dad had never driven any motor vehicle before, but he took the wheel and the journey continued on to base camp without further incident.

On hearing this tale as a young lad, I looked at my dad and asked, 'How did you manage to drive the ambulance with no previous driving experience then?' He grinned. 'When you're on a dusty road in the desert, there isn't a lot you could run into!'

Apart from this story, my dad rarely spoke of the war. Many ex-servicemen, I imagine, would prefer to forget much of what they witnessed and did at that time. On the other hand, without the many spoken and written memories of those involved, we would have little, or no, knowledge of their individual experiences during such horrific times.

On 20th of Feb 1945, he was granted leave to the UK and returned to service duties on 29th of March, remaining at Yorkhill Transit Camp until he was released to class Z under the conditions of Royal Army Reserve on 27th of July 1946.

Raymond Regan



Sgt. Arthur James Wignell 2nd Field Ambulance (d.12th June 1940)

Sgt Arthur Wignell was attending to a casualty on the beach at St Valery en Caux and was killed by a shot to the head from a German sniper.

Patricia Tyrrell



S/Sgt. Edgar Thomas William Simpkins 9th Field Hygiene Section Royal Army Medical Corps

My father, Edgar Simpkins, who is now 100 and lives in Australia, lied about his age and joined the RAMC in April 1932. He was sent to Crookham, then to Millbank and the RAM College which adjoined the barracks. Troops from the barracks serviced the college and Queen Alexandras hospital. From there he was transferred to Woolwich where he started as an orderly on the wards, became a 3rd class, then 2nd class and finally a 1st class nurse. Then he became a hospital cook and then transferred to the mortuary.

He was called up from the reserve before war started and was sent to Cherbourg inspecting and preparing billets on the coast of France all the way up to Belgium when the Germans advanced and the British had to withdraw, eventually evacuating from Cherbourg on a hospital ship which the Germans tried to bomb.

During the war, he served in the 9th Field Hygiene Section and the 13th Field Sanitary Section. He went down through Spain and Portugal, into the Mediterranean and various parts of the north coast of Africa, Egypt, and eventually to Sicily and Italy.

Penny Carrier



L/Cpl. Charles Richard Saunders Royal Army Medical Corps

My paternal grandfather Charles Saunders signed up with the Royal Marine Light Infantry in August 1915 adding a year to his age serving as a Marine aboard HMS Havelock until September 1917. He then went to France as part of the Royal Naval Division. He saw action during February and March 1918 on the front line near Havrincourt Wood where he was wounded (shot and bayonetted) and captured. He then spent the rest of 1918 as a POW. He was honourably discharged on compassionate grounds in November 1919.

During WW2 he served in the RASC and was then transferred to the RAMC driving an ambulance. He ended up at Dunkirk in 1940. Unfortunately the ambulance was hit and he was seriously injured with a broken back. He was then captured and hospitalized and, by his own account, owed his life to superb German surgeons who repaired his vertebrae. Afterwards he spent the rest of WW2 as a POW, finally ending up in Berlin as it fell then returning to England. Resumed his job as a lorry driver and had a good peaceful life until dying at the grand age of 98 - a full life!

Steve Saunders



Capt. Alastair Allan Murray Royal Army Medical Corps

Alastair Murray was born in Stornaway on 6th September 1913, and grew up in Port of Ness. He attended Stornaway's Nicholson Institute and Edinburgh University, graduating from medical school in 1936. His early medical career was in the Hebrides and Yorkshire. It was at a Leeds hospital that he met and got engaged to his future wife Jessie. WW2 started prior to their wedding, and he joined the RAMC, and was shipped out in early December 1939.

He served initially in North Africa, then from late 1940 until 1943 he was stationed at a RAMC hospital in Malta. After the siege of Malta, he was sent to Sicily and Italy, before returning to England just prior to Christmas 1944. After a short leave and getting married, he was sent to Belgium, and was in the first Allied medical unit to go into the Belsen concentration camp.

After demobilization in 1945, he moved to Nottingham and then Kingston-on-Thames. In 1954, he and his family emigrated to Canada, and resided in Vancouver, B.C. Here, he practised surgery until 1978. He then went to work as a company doctor in the Northwest Territories until about 1986. He died 0n 29th May 2004.

Allan Murray



Capt. Michael Cecil Heathfield Dodgson 6th West African Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps

Michael Dodgson was my father, a medical graduate from St Thomas' Hospital. He sailed to India on 14th of February 1945, two weeks after he married my mother, sailed to Burma in July and was in Burma when the war ended. He eventually sailed to Ghana and came back to London in August 1946. He never settled down, punched way under his weight.

His first cousin Rt Rev MAP Wood, who was Bishop of Norwich was awarded DSO for his work as a Royal Navy Chaplain.

Susanna J Dodgson



Pte. John Ignatious Greer Royal Army Medical Corps

My dad, John Greer, was wounded on 1st May 1941 in the western desert. He was later sent to Greece. He was posted missing in action but was with the resistence in northern Greece. He never spoke much about the war, he still had a piece of shrapnel in his back till the day he died. RIP Dad.

Peter Francis Greer



S/Sgt. Walter Lees Royal Army Medical Corps (d.5th October 1941)

Staff Serjeant Lees was buried in the Polemidia Military Cemetery in Cyprus, Grave 82.

S Flynn



Sgt. John Edward Corcoran 28th Field Hospital Royal Army Medical Corps

John E Corcoran joined TA. While at the camp in Yorkshire, around Easter in 1939 the unit was told it was to be called up in anticipation of possible war. John, went to Narvik, Maesllwch Castle, Haverfordwest, to Middle East via South Africa, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Lybia Tunisia and Italy.




Pte. Eric Starkey Jackson (d.28th Nov 1942)

Starkey Jackson served with the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Cheryl Motts









Recomended Reading.

Available at discounted prices.



Joyce's War: The Second World War Journal of a Queen Alexandra Nurse

Joyce Ffoulkes Parry


Thank goodness that Joyce ignored the then military censors and kept a war diary because we learn so much from her diary which is so easily read in this book edited by her daughter, Professor Emeritus Rhiannon Evans , who has painstakingly presented her mother's words into this Voices From History book for The History Press. In addition this is a fine and rare example of a member of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) who not only served for almost the whole of World War Two but also served in different areas and locations such as ambulance trains, hospital ships such as HMHS Karapara and in Casualty Clearing Stations and hospitals such as the 47th British General Hospital in Calcutta. Few books exist about nursing in the Far East and we are very fortunate to be able to read about conditions and patient treatments in these regions which include Egypt and India. If, like me, you have an interest in military nursing history then this is the book for you b









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